While the Congress party managed to get the government to beat a hasty retreat on its plans to amend the UPA’s Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR) and used this to label the party a suit boot ki sarkaar, it has to feel embarrassed by the fact that its own state governments are fed up of the Act. Though this has been done only for projects where under 100 acres of land is to be acquired—right now—the Karnataka government has decided that LARR is way too cumbersome to be implemented. While LARR was brought in as a pro-farmer legislation, the problem with it was that the social impact assessment and the 70-80% consent clause made it next to impossible to acquire land under this Act. While the BJP was prepared to increase the compensation under the Act, it wanted to make the process of acquiring the land less time-consuming. In fact, a submission to Joint Parliamentary Committee by 20 states last year showed that 18 had not made a single acquisition since LARR Act of 2013. Yet, few were willing to come on board and publicly denounce the Act—it was precisely this kind of pressure that ensured, for instance, even the BJP supported the UPA to pass not just the LARR, but even the National Food Security Act that, amazingly, sought to subsidise the bulk of the population.
According to a Times of India report while scrapping the reclamation and rehabilitation part for land acquisition below 100 acres, for public purpose projects such as construction of drainage, railway over/under bridge, drinking water projects, housing etc., Karnataka’s law minister said that if the state was to abide by the R&R provisions of LARR Act no project would be completed on time. With the biggest state under its control beginning the process of dumping one of Congress party’s marquee Bills, the question is whether the party high command feels at all embarrassed. Chances are it does not.