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Land acquisition bill - Boon or Bane

Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2013 was recently passed by the Parliament. The Bill has provisions to provide fair compensation to those whose land is acquired by public or private sector. There are advantages and disadvantages of the bill.

It brings transparency to the process of acquisition of land to set up factories or buildings, infrastructural projects and assures rehabilitation of those affected.

This legislation will benefit both industry and those whose livelihood is dependent on land. It provides two times more compensation in urban areas and four times more compensation in rural areas than the circle price.

The circle rates are decided by the local government on the basis of average sale price for the last 3 years or last 3 months whichever is higher.

The bill establishes regulations for land acquisition as a part of India's massive industrialization drive driven by public-private partnership.

The bill will be central legislation in India for the rehabilitation and resettlement of families affected by land acquisitions.

In addition the bill has a provision by which states can add some more benefits to it.

The bill will eclipse the eminent domain criteria and introduce voting criteria in which 80% of the people should say yes only then land will be acquired.

The Bill will replace the decade old Land Acquisition Act of 1894, which was enacted during British rule.

However there is still some confusion whether the bill is boon or a bane. Many people say it is a boon, others say that it is just a move to increase the vote bank in the forthcoming elections.

The Industry has serious concerns on some of the provisions of the Land Acquisition Bill.

  1. The CII say that the cost of land acquisition will be increased by three times thus making the forthcoming projects unviable. In addition, the CII notes that the Bill would lead to major delays in the process of Land acquisition. The clause of obtaining consent of 80 percent of affected families for private sector and 70 percent of affected families for Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects would make the process of obtaining consent a very long drawn out process.
  2. The Bill talks of an urgency clause which means that government can acquire a land it wants by ignoring all the pre-set conditions.
  3. The Resettlement & Rehabilitation clause gives no guarantee to jobs.
  4. The Bill compensates different categories of affected families at par, not aligned to their losses. So there could be cases where compensation calculated is lower than the market rate.
  5. State is the ultimate decision maker when it comes to acquiring farm land.
  6. The Bill does not guarantee return of unused land if land owner repays compensation to the state.

In addition, the Government has exempted some clauses & act from the bill. They can acquire land under these acts without any voting as these are exempted sectors. Some of the sectors are:

  • Railways
  • Highways
  • Defence
  • Nuclear Projects
  • Low cost housing
  • Industrial area or parks.

Besides these, the Land acquisition has been placed under state list. States will decide now whether to improve the bill or follow the existing norms.

So seeing all these facts, the bill has brought more disadvantages with it rather than the advantages. The bill is said to be the base for "Right to Fair Compensation," it means wellbeing of the people whose lands are acquired. Now the question is whether the bill has benefitted the people. Seeing all the disadvantages, the answer is a NO.

Jashanpreet Singh

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