Land Bill: Time needed to acquire land will increase significantly, cost will go up six-seven fold

Written by The Financial Express | Updated: Aug 30 2013, 15:55pm hrs
The current Land Acquisition Bill is something industry is eagerly waiting for but has reservations on several clauses, which if not changed or defined properly would only add up to costs. In an interview with FE, Ficci president Naina Lal Kidwai articulates the concerns over such clauses. Edited excerpts:

Do you think the proposed Land Bill will raise the cost of acquiring land

The Bill not only wants industry to pay for compensation for land to landowners but also for the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) of affected families. Compensation and R&R, as per the Bill, is set to increase the prices and cost of acquisition by six to seven times. The Bill also wants industry to pay for 25 infrastructure facilities as part of R&R.

Do you think the time taken to acquire the land would also go up

One of the major concerns we have is the time required to acquire any land now will increase significantly. The time required for acquiring land for industry will be five to six years on average since a number of steps have been added to the whole process. There is social impact assessment (SIA), public hearing for SIA, evaluation of the SIA report by an expert group, getting 80% consent and validating it in the SIA report, public hearing for R&R, etc, which will not take less than five years to complete.

How do you view the R&R provisions Would they help the industry in acquiring land or it would make the entire process much more cumbersome

The Bill continues to prescribe for consent of 80% of affected families for acquisition for private sector projects and 70% for PPP (public-private partnership) for the defined public purpose. Affected families and not the landowners have been made the basis for consent requirement for any acquisition and the definition of affected family includes agricultural labourers, tenants including any form of tenancy, share-croppers or artisans who may be working in the affected area for three years prior to the acquisition, whose primary source of livelihood stand affected by the acquisition of land. This definition of project-affected families is too wide and it would be practically impossible to identify the genuine affected families and attain their consent.

The Bill says that if the land remains unutilised for five years, it should be returned to the owners or to the state land bank. Is this a fair provision

The period for the return of unutilised land has been reduced to five years from 10 years in the Bill. Now in case of infrastructure projects like industrial corridors the project does not take off before five years because of problems in clearances. So what is the definition of unutilised needs clarity and also five years could be a small time period for many infrastructure projects depending upon the definition adopted for unutilised land.

Theres a provision that if the buyer sells to a third party, then 40% of the appreciated value needs to be shared with the original owners. Is this acceptable to industry

This comes on top of the increased R&R and compensation amount to be paid and will create problems in tracing the original land owners after some years.