Sunday, March 15, 2015

Land Acquisition Laws in India - Part II

(First read this post - Land Acquisition Laws - Part I)

Land Ordinance, 2014
After the regime change, BJP government led by PM Shri Narendra Modi, tried to amend the LARR Act, 2013. But due to several reasons, like disruptions by opposition parties, having minority in Rajya Sabha, etc. could not pass the Land Bill

Government then decided to pass a Presidential Ordinance in December 2014 (Land Ordinance, 2014), without waiting for next Parliamentary session to debate on the issue.

Provisions of Land Ordinance, 2014

1.  Conditions for acquiring landsIn the Ordinance, those mandatory conditions of 70-80 % consent of the affected families, were no longer required for 5 types of projects -
  • National Security and Defense
  • Rural Infrastructure and Electrification
  • Infrastructure and Social Infrastructure
  • Industrial Corridors
  • Housing for the poor
2.  Social Impact Assessment (SIA) - SIA was not needed for the above 5 types of Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) projects, where government owns the land

3.  Compensation - same as LARR, 2013

4.  Private ProvisionsBuilding private hospitals, education institutes would also count as 'public purpose'. 

5.  Accountability - Head of the department could not be prosecuted without prior sanction of government (under Criminal Procedure Code - Sec 197)

Problems with Land Ordinance, 2014

1.  Bureaucrat immunityimmunity could be misused by them by playing mischief in land acquisition

2.  Exemptions (a big list!)Those 5 types of projects are enough to cover almost any type of projects (specially the infrastructure category) (meaning 70-80 consent is almost invalidated with clever words!)

3.  Social Impact Assessment (SIA) - SIA ignored for those 5 types of projects. So, local laborers, artisans, small traders, etc. would get little or no relief package (even if their livelihood affected)

4.  Food Security ProblemsAcquisition of agricultural lands without giving proper consideration could create food security problems

5.  Private Colleges and hospitalsIn the name of 'public purpose', these two categories could acquire land, even if they charge high fees (and serving little 'public purpose' in rural areas)

Land Bill, 2015
In the Budget Session, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 (LARR Bill), also known as Land Bill, 2015 has been passed by the Lok Sabha on March 10, 2015. Now it needs to be passed by Rajya Sabha, and get Presidential assent to become an Act.

Ordinance has a validity of max. 6 months, and should be used only in emergency cases (when parliament is in recession, and emergency action needed). Therefore government needs to pass the bill in both of the Houses of Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) within due time.

Apart from that, the Land Ordinance of 2014 was too rigid for land owners, and almost any land could be acquired by the government without much consideration of the affected people. Therefore, it needed to change some of its provisions.

Provisions (9 Amendments) of Land Bill, 2015
Government adopted 9 amendments to the Land Ordinance, and passed in the Lok Sabha -

1.  Removed exemptions for Social Infrastructure projects in Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) mode.

2.  Land that will be acquired for Industrial Corridors will be limited to 1 km on either side of the highways or railway lines.

3.  Compulsory employment to 1 member of the affected family of farm laborers.

4.  Panchayat's nod may be compulsory for acquiring tribal land.

5.  Replacing the term 'private entity' with 'private enterprise'

6.  Government may acquire land for government bodies, corporations

7.  A hassle-free grievance redressal mechanism for land losers

8.  Farmers may get right to appeal / complain over land acquisition hearing and redressal of grievances at the district level

9.  Ceiling on land acquisition in Industrial corridors

Note that government refused to bring back the Consent clause (70-80) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) for the 5 types of projects.

Opposition of the Bill and Anna Hazare
The Land Bill is likely to be opposed in the Rajya Sabha by the opposition parties (where the BJP-government has a minority state).

Also the veteran anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare kept up a combative tone over the allegedly 'anti-farmer' bill, remarking that a "second freedom struggle" would erupt if the bill is passed in the Rajya Sabha.

He wrote in his blog, "A second freedom struggle would erupt if this Bill, in its current version, gets the approval of both Houses of Parliament. The people would then have to show that the 'People's Parliament' is supreme in this country." 

He is also planning to start his 'Kisan Sangharsh Yatra' in protest against the Bill on March 30, 2015.

Summary and my view
The LARR Act of 2013 was too rigid for land acquisition, that made the land acquisition process infeasible (blocking industrial growth). On the other hand, the Land Ordinance of 2014 was too rigid for the land owners, that almost ignored them in the whole process (we cannot deprive the land owner in the name of industrial growth!)

Even in the Land Bill of 2015, the SIA and 70-80 consent clause is not applicable for the 5 types of projects (read 'not present'). It means that the situation is not improved for the affected people.

Now, we can just wait and watch, whether the Bill is passed in Rajya Sabha. Or, we can raise our concerns in appropriate means.

You can present your views regarding this topic in comments section.

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Happy learning!

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