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Land acquisition bill - Boon or Bane

The question for acquiring land for some public use is a pettifog issue having social, economic, and political repercussions. Right from the British period this issue has created a commotion among those who are the land owners.

Even more than sixty percent of our population is dependent on agriculture, only 25 percent of our total GDP comes from agriculture.

If our country needs to grow steadily, the bulk of its growth has to come from non agriculture sector such as manufacturing and services. This in turn needs agricultural land for its infrastructure development.

In order to cater to this the concept of Special Economic Zones have created but it has become the area for fierce dispute. We have witnessed flare-ups like Nandigram, Singur, Kalinga Nagar, Yamuna Expressways and Noida as cases for such dispute.

There is huge controversy over the land acquisition. The result is a number of large infrastructure projects are at a standstill because of delays in acquiring land.

Recent studies by ASSOCHAM shows that delays in land acquisition is threatening to endanger investments in near term and this will create negative impact on economy growth, job opportunities and tax collection.

Compulsory land acquisition, a consequence of urbanization and large scale public infrastructure development, was governed by the land acquisition act 1894, a 120 year old lopsided legislation.

The government now has drastically changed its provision by passing 'The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in land Acquisition Bill 2013.

The bill is said to have features like compensation for the owners four times the market value in rural areas and twice in case of urban areas.

Also consent of 80% of displaced people is required in case of private or public sector that acquires the land.

These features appear to be alluring bait for the beneficiaries. But along with these beautiful jazz, there are some snoopy facts too associated with the bill.

The provisions of the bill shall not apply to acquisitions under 16 existing legislations including SEZs.

It is not clear whether the Parliament has jurisdiction to impose rehabilitation and resettlement on private purchase of agricultural land, no consent of people required in case of PSUs, the government can temporarily acquire the land for three years and there is no provision for rehabilitation and resettlement in such cases.

Nonetheless the bill is definitely a much advanced and fairer replacement to the draconian Land Acquisition Act of 1894, but until and unless the idea is properly implemented it cannot give positive results.

Undoubtedly evolving of a law of such nature is a complex process and given that the affected people are the disadvantaged segment of the society, its carries huge social and economic responsibilities.

More importantly it provides them a say in the process which was lacking, but it has been rightly said that don't count your chickens before they hatch.

Therefore, one will have to wait and watch over a period of time to understand the bill whether it really offers what it promises- a harbinger of fast track infrastructure development, or it's just beating round the bush, related to gain electoral advantage to the government in power.

Sounding optimistic, one hope the bill may provide a legal framework for land acquisition which will lead to fast tracking of the laggardly industrial infrastructure development.

Neha Ghosh

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