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Land acquisition bill - Boon or Bane

Land acquisition and compensation is always a highly contentious and emotional issue between the landowner and the acquiring authority.

Land acquisition is defined as the forcible acquisition of land from an unwilling seller and is different from purchase by a willing seller.

As 60% of the population depends on agriculture so land is supposed to be the precious natural gift to the people of this nation. But in recent period cases of public unrest at many places such as Singur (West Bengal), Yamuna expressway, Noida (Uttar Pradesh) has aggravated the problem related to the land acquisition.

The Land Acquisition bill 2013 is considered to be the part of the restructuring of more than a century old weak, ineffective and draconian land acquisition bill of 1894.

This new land acquisition bill has been enacted to make a sharp relationship between the need for facilitation public works, infrastructure development and rapid industrialization and to address the worries of owners, peasants and those who are dependent on the acquired land for livelihood.

Main proposals of this new bill are suppose to have revolutionary features. These are:
Award of compensation not less than twice market value for urban area and four times market value for rural areas. Requirement of consent of minimum 80% of project affected families, maximum provision of 5% acquisition of multi cropped, irrigated land.

In the bill, there are certain provisions related to rehabilitation and resettlement of the dependent people.

This bill is considered as one of the important step towards empowerment of the rights of citizen and it presents a rosy picture where landowners of rural and urban area are going to have a huge advantage. But as we know every coin has two sides. So like other bills, this also has some flaws.

As land acquisition has been made difficult through the bill, it is going to reduce the rate of urbanization and add to the already high costs in urban areas.

The bill fails to address a number of anomalies regarding land acquisition that are found in rural areas due to illiteracy, presence of exploiting middlemen etc.

This bill does not have a provision for rehabilitation as well as consent of the owner in case of acquisition by the PSU's.

This bill has provision for compensation and rehabilitation according to the availability of resources like land for land will be given alternate landmass if available, otherwise monetary benefits will be given. This provision of the bill does not conform to the provisions of constitution under article 14 which states "Right to Equality".

There are also certain confusions regarding market rates which take average costs over three years in various sale deeds. But in India the rates of property are always underwritten to save stamp duty and this may become a legal trap for the owners.

This bill comes up with various revolutionary aspect of 'public welfare' where number of benefits is guaranteed. This includes proper compensation to the land owner along with the rehabilitation and resettlement of the people dependent on it. But here comes the question of the implementation of this bill as we know the boon or bane aspect can be ascertained only by the efficiency and effectiveness of the implementing authority. The mechanism of this whole process is still unclear which adds to the woes of the beneficiaries.

This bill has evoked a mixed response from the countrymen. Everyone is keen to know the outcome whether this bill can be said as a buyer's bill in spite of so many hopes in disguise for the common man.

Well the true meaning of this bill can be achieved when the land owners and farmers are adequately compensated and rehabilitated.

This alone will fulfill the objective of a welfare nation.

Amit Srivastav

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