Barely six months after a new central land acquisition law came into force replacing the one enacted 120 years ago, the government has embarked on its overhaul. The move, confirmed by rural development and roads minister Nitin Gadkari after a meeting with state revenue ministers on Friday, comes amid concerns expressed by not only industry but also many states and senior government functionaries in charge of infrastructure projects over the impracticality of the new law.
While the elaborate requirements of local peoples’ consent stipulated in the law have, for the short period of its existence, proven to be onerous, industry bodies like CII have noted that the new Act has jacked up land acquisition cost by three times, rendering projects unviable and thwarting investments.
After Friday’s meeting where many BJP-ruled states said the law has adversely affected even small projects, Gadkari said states’ concerns have been noted and a report on the same would be prepared in 10 days after further consultations with states and presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We will then act on his (the PM’s) directions... The matter will be discussed in the Cabinet and Parliament if needed,” he said, signalling changes to the new law. Gadkari had earlier said that many road projects were stuck due to the difficulty in acquiring land, apart from delays in environmental clearances.
While green clearances have been fast-tracked after the new government took over, the land acquisition law, which sets the lower threshold for states when it comes to announcing compensation for the landowners, has been an impediment in several cases.
A senior government functionary told FE on condition of anonymity that “government-led and infrastructure projects including roads and ports, etc, need to be kept out of the ambit of the land acquisition Act”. He added that the ‘eminent domain’ of the state needed to be left undisturbed to ensure that land can be compulsorily acquired by the state for developmental objectives.
As per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, that came into force on January 1, 2014, replacing the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, consent of at least 70% of the project-affected people is mandatory for acquiring land for projects under the public-private partnership model. As for acquiring land for private companies involving projects aimed at public purpose (which includes industry also), consent of 80% of the people affected is required.
The Act also stipulates that