New land Bill allows original owner 40% share in value

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SummaryThe contentious Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, which got the Union Cabinet’s approval last week, may not be completely in line with the recommendations of the Sumitra Mahajan-led standing committee on rural development or the original draft of 2011, but seeks to give greater rights to original land owners.

The contentious Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Bill, which got the Union Cabinet’s approval last week, may not be completely in line with the recommendations of the Sumitra Mahajan-led standing committee on rural development or the original draft of 2011, but seeks to give greater rights to original land owners.

The revised Bill stipulates the original land owners a 40% share in the appreciated land value as opposed to 20% earlier, besides allowing the return of unutilised land to either the land bank or the original land owner. This is in contrast to the provision in the earlier draft of the Bill that required the unused land to be returned to the land bank only.

According to a senior rural development ministry official, there are four major changes in the revised Bill. These pertain to consent, retrospectivity, return of unutilised land and share in appreciated land value.

While the revised Bill asks for 80% consent for acquisition for private projects, 70% consent for public-private partnership (PPP) projects and no consent for infrastructure projects fully owned and executed by the government, the official added that the ministry is still working on the exact formulation of the provision that allows the law to be applied retrospectively to cases which witnessed protests in the past.

This is in stark contrast to the recommendations of the standing committee which in May said the government should not buy land for PPP projects or for private firms even when public interest is involved.

Despite the changes, the ministry insists that as per the committee’s recommendations, states will now decide the threshold of rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) provisions regarding private purchase of land and not the central government. The earlier draft of the bill required that “only rehabilitation and resettlement provisions will apply when private companies buy land for a project, more than 100 acres in rural areas, or more than 50 acre in urban areas” through private negotiations.

The LARR Bill seeks to replace the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, under whose provisions land acquisition is carried out in the country. The Act has been amended 17 times.

“The land acquisition provisions would apply to the area to be acquired but the rehabilitation and resettlement provisions will apply to the entire project area even when private company approaches the government for partial acquisition for public purpose,” then original draft said.

“We have more or less accepted the committee’s recommendations except the consent clause where it did not want the Act to be repealed and replaced,” the official added.

However, no changes have been made in the compensation and R&R in the revised Bill, which may be placed in Parliament on Monday.

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