Will the new land acquisition law help?

Aug 27 2013, 10:33 IST
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SummaryWhile the Bill integrates all aspects of land acquisition in one policy, it is skewed in favour of the landowners and limits the industry’s prospects rather severely

for changes in the definition of the term ‘project affected people’. It now includes those who have been working in agricultural lands set to be acquired for industrial use. The government has also agreed to include a new clause in the Bill to encourage states to lease land for projects instead of acquiring it. The new clause leaves it to the states to decide on whether they would be exercising the option to lease land for any project.

However, the government has not supported the panel’s suggestion of having a multi-member committee at the district level to decide on the market value of the land. The Bill empowers the district collector to decide the market value of land in his/her district. The Bill now stipulates a compensation of four times the market value of the land being acquired, payable to landowner while the earlier version proposed a compensation of six times the market value.

We have agreed to support the Land Acquisition Bill as it is long overdue. The proposed law would replace the 117-year-old Land Acquisition Act of 1894. It will also integrate acquisition and resettlement & rehabilitation (R&R) in one policy for the first time ever. The new law is the need of the hour.

The author, a Lok Sabha member, was chairperson, Parliamentary Panel on Land Acquisition Bill

(As told to Sandip Das)

It is ironical that, on the one hand, the government is trying to resolve and speed up the land acquisition process for large projects through the Project Monitoring Group set up to assist Cabinet Committee on Investments while, on the other, it is trying to bring a Bill that will further protract the process of land acquisition. One of the commonest reasons for delay faced by large projects is land acquisition.

The Right to Fair Compensation & Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2012, prescribes a 10-stage process for land acquisition. Starting with the social impact assessment (SIA) study followed by the evaluation of SIA by independent expert group, publication of preliminary notification, hearing of objections, publication of declaration, etc, it would take not less than four years to acquire a single plot of land, even with a very efficient government machinery and without any extension in prescribed time-lines. This is assuming that one would be able to manage 70-80% consent of the affected families, and not just land-owners. In a complex case, it would take no less

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