Saturday, March 14, 2015

Land Acquisition Laws in India - Part I

Land Acquisition laws in India are always controversial . In the colonial era (British India), Land Acquisition Act, 1894 was in force, which was to help British lords to acquire lands as per their will (read by force) and with little or no compensation.

LARR Act, 2013
Then in the UPA regime, the unjust colonial act was replaced with Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR Act, 2013). This was framed after consulting all stakeholders over a period of 7 years by the government (Congress-led UPA government) and was passed unanimously after going through only 2 Parliamentary Standing Committees in 2007 and 2009.

The LARR Act of 2013 was meant to expedite land acquisition but only after ensuring adequate compensation and rehabilitation of the affected people.

(First, try to understand the provisions of the act, then think about the problems associated with it)

Provisions of LARR Act, 2013

1.  Public purpose ProjectsIt clearly defined various types of public purpose projects for which the government could acquire private lands

2.  Conditions for acquiring landsBefore acquiring any land, consents of the affected families were required as follows -

  • Private projects - 80 % family agreement
  • Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) project - 70 % family agreement

3.  Social Impact Assessment (SIA) - Under SIA, even consent of the affected laborers, artisans, tenant farmers, fishermen, small tradersetc. (whose livelihood would be affected) was needed (What could be the social impact after acquisition of the land was to be assessed)

4.  CompensationAfter SIA, one-time compensation was to be given to the people affected by the land acquisition, even if they don't own any land. The compensation to the owner of the land was proportional to the market rates as follows -
  • Rural area - 4 x market rate (4 times)
  • Urban area - 2 x market rate (2 times)

5.  Food Security - Fertile, irrigated, multi-cropped farmland could be acquired only in the last resort. If such fertile land was to be acquired, government would have to develop equal size of wasteland for agricultural purpose.

6.  Private provisionIf government acquires the land for private company, the private company itself would be responsible for relief and rehabilitation

7.  SC / ST provisionAdditional rehab package for Scheduled Caste / Scheduled Tribe owners was to be given.

8.  Dispute settlement authoritiesState government had to setup Dispute Settlement Authoritieswith chairman of district judge or lawyer (for 7 years) post.

9.  Accountability - Head of the department would be made responsible for any offense or mischief played from the government side

10.  Land returnIf project was not started in 5 years, the acquired land was to be returned to the land owner.

Problems with LARR Act, 2013

1.  ComplexityThis Act established an extremely complex and impractical/infeasible process for land acquisition.

2.  Consent problem - If 20-30 % of the affected families could be managed not to give consent (e.g., by promising them higher prices, etc.), then due to 70-80% consent requirement, the project would never start.

3.  High cost of compensation

4.  Red tapism, Environment activism, Policy Paralysisetc.

... to be continued (Land Ordinance 2014, Land Acquisition Bill 2015, etc.)

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