GANDHINAGAR: Diluting the stringent provisions of the Centre's Land Acquisition Act 2013, the BJP government in Gujarat today secured the passage of a bill in the Assembly dowing away with social impact assessment and consent clauses for acquisition of land for public purposes and industrial corridor.
'Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Gujarat Amendment) Bill 2016' was passed in the Assembly in the absence of the opposition Congress MLAs, who were suspended for two days by the Speaker yesterday.
One of the key provisions of the bill is doing away with Social Impact Assessment (SIA) for projects related to Defence and social sectors, such as building air base, defence manufacturing units, schools, roads, canals, affordable houses, etc.
The other key change is that SIA will not be carried out for land acquisition for industrial corridor.
Another key amendment is doing away with the provision of consent of affected parties. As per the original central Act, 80 per cent of land owners must give their nod for the acquisition of land.
As per the new bill, these provisions will not be followed if the land is acquired for public purpose. However, it will remain in place for acquisition related to industrial development.
Giving rationale behind bringing in such provisions, state Health Minister and in-charge of Revenue portfolio Nitin Patel, who was speaking on behalf of Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, said that it will take too much time for land acquisition if the current provision of Land Act is followed.
After coming to power in 2014, the Narendra Modi government brought in amendments to Land Acquisition Act-2013.
The NDA version, however, failed to pass the muster of Rajya Sabha as the BJP and allies lacked numbers in the Upper House. The Union government then dropped the idea of passage of the bill in Rajya Sabha and instead asked states to amend the law suiting them.
While presenting the bill in the Assembly today, Patel informed the members that as the principal Land Act is in the 'concurrent' list, the state government can bring amendments in it through the bill.
"Our aim is to expedite process of land acquisition for various social sector projects, such as building Narmada canals, affordable houses for the needy citizens, land for industrial corridor, bullet train project, rural infrastructure and many other pro-people projects," he said.
In the original Act, a head of the department is liable to face criminal proceedings and punished as per the law, if he is found guilty of any misdeeds related to land acquisition process. However, the government replaced the provision with a milder one.
As per the bill, proceedings against head of the department will be subject to government's consent, without which he could not be prosecuted directly by court.
"Further, we also need to speed up the process to allot land to Army and Air Force for building their infrastructure, which is vital to national security. Further, Gujarat also needs to promote defence manufacturing sector by allowing units to be set up in the state," Patel said.
"Through this bill, we are doing away with Social Impact Assessment clause, as it consumes lot of time. Further, it will not be necessary for the government to acquire consent of 80 per cent affected parties if we are acquiring land for social and defence sector," he said.
The state government also inserted/ replaced some provisions through the bill. It introduced a new provision of land acquisition through direct consent of land owners.
"In the original Act, there is no mention about procedure to be followed when the land owners want to give away their land voluntarily. Our bill inserted a provision of 'consent award' for such acquisition. We have been following this practice in Gujarat since long," he said.
The new bill replaced a key provision related to the punishment for departmental heads associated with land acquisition, who are found guilty of irregularities.
Apart from the social and defence sector projects, the bill proposes to exempt from SIA industrial corridors set up by the state government and its undertakings, where it is required to acquire land up to 1 km on both sides of designated railway line or road.
In addition, the infrastructure projects under PPP mode, where land continues to vest with the government, are also exempted from social impact assessment and consent clause.