With the new Land Acquisition Act coming into force, government today sought to allay apprehension of the industry, saying there is no bar whatsoever on purchase of private land.
"You want land? Go buy the land," Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said when asked about his message to private industry on a day the new law came into force. Investors had expressed apprehension that the new law, which replaced over a century old act, would make land acquisition more expensive for industrial and infrastructure development.
Ramesh said that the new act applies only to the land acquired by central and state authorities for any public purpose.
He, however, said that there is no bar whatsoever, on purchase of private land.
According to him, industry must look beyond land acquisition by government and explore land purchase opportunities.
"From today onwards, no land can be acquired under 1894 Act. From today onwards, all land will be acquired under the new Act," the minister said asserting that the new law was enacted to address "widespread and historical injustices" done to tribals and farmers who were subjected to forceful displacement while acquiring land using the old Act and land acquisition more transparent.
Ramesh said from today, the government will not acquire any land for private investors for their private projects.
"A private builder building condominium cannot expect government to acquire the land. Why should government acquire land to a private builder to build country homes for the well-offs," he said.
The historic Act to provide just and fair compensation to farmers was passed by both Houses of Parliament last year with overwhelming majority during its Monsoon Session. It had received Presidential assent on September 27.
Ramesh said if a private project is fulfilling a public purpose, 80 per cent consent is required.
"If it is a PPP project, 70 per cent consent is required," he said, adding that no land acquisition can take place without provisions for Rehabilitation and Resettlement.
He said the Rural Development Ministry is now taking steps to ensure preparation of rules that are intended to bring clarity to certain key processes defined in the parent law.
He said the rules, as finalised by the Law Ministry, have now been notified officially in the Gazette for the formal consultation with the public.
"While we have carried out a process of consultation prior to the preparation of these draft rules, the law requires a formal declaration to seek comments from the public for 45 days," Ramesh said.
He said these rules will lay down processes for the conduct of Social Impact Assessment and will also provide details for obtaining the consent of affected families.
The minister, however, said that the new law can function and operate even without the rules coming into force.
"Given that the law was drafted as a complete and self-containing statute, the absence of rules is not a detriment to the law being invoked," he said. He said that the retrospective clause in Act will apply in three circumstances. According to him the clause will apply where Land Acquisition proceedings under the old Act has started and the award has not been announced.
The clause will also apply in a circumstance where the award has been announced for the acquired land five years ago but its physical possession has not taken place.
It will also apply in case land acquisition proceedings have started five years ago under the old Act but a majority of the farmers have not been paid the compensation.
In such circumstance the compensation will have to be paid under the new Act.