Parliamentary panel on land bill agrees to withdraw six key amendments including dealing with consent clause. After much protest over the controversial bill, it is believed that the government has accepted most of the clauses demanded by the Congress party. However, the government would debate relating retrospective, land return, review clauses.
Until 2013, the land acquisition in India was governed by The Land Acquisition Act 1984. In 2013, the UPA government passed the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act to repeal the 19th century act. The UPA Act was aimed at ensuring the land is acquired strictly for public welfare projects and land owners are adequately compensated and rehabilitated. The protests and outrage began after the Modi government decided to brought in following amendments to the RFCTLARR Act .
1. Removal of ‘consent’ clause: As per the UPA law, land could be acquired only with approval of 70% of land owners for PPP projects and 80% for private entities. However, the amendment, brought in by the NDA removed this provision of ‘consent’ for acquiring lands for five purposes – Industrial corridors, Public Private Partnership projects, Rural Infrastructure, Affordable housing and Defence. This has drawn much of the criticism not only from political circle but also from activists like Anna Hazare who has launched a mass protest against the bill.
2. Return of unutilized land: According to the Act 2013, if the land remains unutilised for five years, then it needs to be returned to the owner. But according to the ordinance promulgated by the NDA government, the period after which unutilised land needs to be returned will be five years, or any period specified at the time of setting up the project.
3. According to the 2013 Act, land can be acquired by any private company. But according the recent ordinance, land can be acquired by any private entity.
4. As per the new law, if any government official commits an offence during the process of acquisition, he/she cannot be prosecuted without prior sanction from the government.
5. The amendments propose to include 13 legislations that are currently exempted under the purview of the Act in the compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement provisions. This is, however, seen as a pro-farmer move as there was no uniform central policy of rehabilitation and resettlement.
Why NDA brought the amendments
Ever since this government came to power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been vigorously campaigning for the ‘Make in India’ vision which aims to boost the domestic manufacturing. Though Modi is wooing the foreign companies to invest in India, land acquisition is a major problem for these firms with many of them dropping their investment plan over the past few years.
Though there are suggestions from some corners that the industrial enterprises should purchase land directly from farmers, it doesn’t seem feasible in India as the records of land holding cannot be easily verified in the country. This may open the possibility of disputes after the purchase. However, the government mediation in the transfer of land has not proved fully successful to compensate and rehabilitate the displace people. The draft of the government’s National Policy for Rehabilitation states that a figure around 75% of the displaced people since 1951 are still awaiting rehabilitation.
According to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the ordinances were aimed at speeding up development in five areas: development of industrial corridors, social infrastructure such as education, rural infrastructure such as roads and power, housing for the poor, and the country’s defense capabilities. The ordinance makes land acquisition easier in these areas by exempting them from several provisions of current law.