Column: Messiah or monster?

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SummaryLand price and housing project costs will most likely rise after the passing of the proposed Bill

If the news reports are to be believed then it appears that the colonial-era Land Acquisition Act, 1894, will be replaced with the Land Acquisition Bill, 2011. The current monsoon session of Parliament is expected to take up this much-awaited Bill.

After the massive storms in Tata’s Singur plant, Yamuna Expressway project and Greater Noida land acquisition, the need of the hour, especially for the corporate players, was an effectual and time-saving redressal arrangement for the disposal of cases concerning land disputes. It may be safely concluded that the cost of land is slated to rise pursuant to the passing of this Bill. The developers are likely to transfer the added tariff onto the consumers. For this reason, the housing prices are likely to go beyond the purchasing power of the customer.

Given below are some of the key features of the proposed Bill.

As per the Bill, the government can acquire the land only for public purposes. The Bill mandates an assent of 80% of the land owners before land can be acquired by private companies. Further, in the situation where the land is acquired for the purposes of projects carried out by public-private projects, it is imperative that 70% of the land owners agree to such a proposal. It has been evidently outlined that the consent would be attained along with the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) report.

To start off the exercise of land acquisition, the government will have to conclude SIA within 6 months pursuant to a discussion with the panchayats at the village level and at the municipality or the municipal corporation at the urban level. Furthermore, it notes that the Environmental Impact Assessment will also be conducted simultaneously along with SIA.

The next step will be the appraisal of SIA by an expert group, which will constitute of 2 representatives of panchayat or gram sabha (or the municipality); 2 experts on rehabilitations; a technical expert concerning the subject matter of the proposed project; and finally 2 non-official social scientists. The major objective of the expert group is to examine whether the project in question qualifies for any public purpose or not. Finally, a committee would be established by the government for the purposes of further review of the proposal. This committee would be required to evaluate the report of the expert group on the SIA study, verifying the above mentioned findings of the expert group.

Another key highlight of the Bill

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