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Land Acquisition Bill: Discuss the Pros and Cons.

Land acquisition is the first and foremost activity for any development. To achieve the GDP growth rate in double digit, manufacturing, urbanization (Sustainable Smart Cities) and infrastructure development is must. According to the World Bank group, in ease of doing business India ranks 142. To make the process easy for Domestic as well as Foreign Investor, Modi Government is doing their best. Land Acquisition is one of the hurdles to start any project in India.

In 2013, UPA Govt repealed the century old draconian Land Acquisition Act 1894 with " The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 ". It made processes to acquire land so tough that it was neither fruitful to land owners nor to Investors. So, Pro-development NDA Government has issued an ordinance in 2014 as both houses were not in session. Now Govt has put Land Acquisition Bill 2015 in parliament for approval.

Pros of the Bill:

  1. As Social Impact Assessment has been removed for 5 sectors, acquisition time will be less. Project could be established early and it will lead to early growth.
  2. Cost of the Project could also be reduced as for SIA a lot of amount has to be spent.
  3. The Bill has included 13 more acts of Land acquisition for which there was no fixed criteria to give compensation to the Land owners. Now, people will get proper compensation for their Land.
  4. The bill has taken the acquisition of land for private hospitals and private educational institutions within its ambit. So, land owners will get proper compensation if their land will be acquired.
  5. The LARR Act, 2013 states that the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 will continue to apply in certain cases, where an award has been made under the 1894 Act. However, if such an award was made five years or more before the enactment of the LARR Act, 2013, and the physical possession of land has not been taken or compensation has not been paid, the LARR Act, 2013 will apply.
    The Bill states that in calculating this time period, any period during which the proceedings of acquisition were held up: (i) due to a stay order of a court, or (ii) a period specified in the award of a Tribunal for taking possession, or (iii) any period where possession has been taken but the compensation is lying deposited in a court or any account, will not be counted.
    So, bill has removed the retrospective application. This is the good signal to the Investors.

Cons of the Bill:

  1. The bill has expanded the sectors where assessment and consent will not be required. For 5 sectors, consent clause has been removed. So the government or private individuals / companies will no longer need mandatory 80% consent for land acquisition if it is acquired for national security, defence, rural infrastructure including electrification, industrial corridors & housing for poor and 70% consent for Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects where the central government owns the land. Heart of the LARR'2013 Act was the time bound Social Impact Assessment. By this, feasibility of the project was to be established. Since SIA clause has been removed now. Project may get delayed after acquiring the land if affected people are not willing to give their land. Govt will not be able to know social and economic impact of the project.
  2. The Bill has exempted the projects from the restrictions on the acquisition of irrigated multi-cropped land imposed by the LARR'2013. In near future all countries will face food security problems owing to Global warming. So, proper use of the land is must.
  3. As the bill states that the unutilised land will need to be returned to the Land owners after 5 years or any period specified at the time of setting up of the project against the 5 years period specified in the LARR'2013. Private entities after acquiring the Land may specify arbitrary period to return the unutilised land. Taking the current scenario we can see, much of the acquired land is left unutilised. So, by giving this flexibility to Investors, land utilisation will depend on their good will.
To make the dream "Make in India" come true of our Honourable Prime minister Sh. Narendra Modi, some rationale changes in the LARR, 2013 are indeed. Hampering of the project by agitation and protests after acquiring the Land gives bad image of India with respect to ease of doing business, than delay in the project owing to SIA before acquiring the Land. With SIA, owners will know the effects of the project. If it will be beneficial for them, they will give their land willingly. And if not, without their assent, they may create agitation. So, it's better to assess the socioeconomic impact prior to acquiring the Land.

Rachana Gupta