Will the new land acquisition law help?

Aug 27 2013, 10:33 IST
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SummaryWhile the Bill integrates all aspects of land acquisition in one policy, it is skewed in favour of the landowners and limits the industry’s prospects rather severely

We have stressed on two points while preparing the Parliamentary Standing Committee Report on the Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill.

First, the government should not buy land even for private public partnership (PPP) projects or even when there is ‘public interest’ involved and, second, as far as possible, agricultural land should not be used for industrial purposes.

However, the draft law asks for 80% consent for acquisition for private projects, 70% consent for PPP projects and no consent for infrastructure projects fully owned and executed by the government. Although the rural development ministry (which is anchoring the Land Acquisition Bill) has not agreed to our opposition to land purchase for PPP projects, the government has accepted our proposal to exempt all agricultural land from acquisition.

In the Bill submitted to the Parliamentary Panel, the government has included the clause that ‘multi-cropped, irrigated’ land is to be acquired only as a last resort. With large-scale diversion of agricultural land for industry purposes, providing food security to such a huge number of people will become difficult as food cannot remain limited to rice and wheat only. Using agricultural land for industrial use should remain the state’s prerogative. The states can demarcate the areas in their master plan for industrial use.

We have also made a case against the creation of a ‘land bank’, proposed in the draft legislation, with the lands acquired from farmers for industrial use which are not put to use within 5 years of purchase. All the members of the Parliamentary Panel had expressed their reservation against the concept of a ‘land bank’ as land is a scarce resource in our country. We had proposed that the unused land be returned to the original owners in case the land is not put to use within 5 years of purchase. The government has agreed to this proposal.

The government has also agreed to our proposal of making gram sabha consent mandatory for acquisition of land in scheduled areas for industry purposes. This is in line with the demands of the civil society organisations. Under a separate provision—the ‘Special Provisions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes’—the Bill says, “In case of acquisition or alienation of any land in scheduled areas, the prior consent of the gram sabha concerned or the panchayats or the autonomous district councils, at the appropriate level in scheduled areas under the fifth schedule of the Constitution, is mandatory.”

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