New Delhi: Government on Monday recommended promulgation of an ordinance making significant changes in the Land Acquisition Act including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas of industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.
The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, decided to amend the Act to bring under its purview 13 central legislations, including those relating to defence and national security, to provide higher compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement benefits to farmers whose land is being acquired.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government decided to relax certain provisions of the Act and add Section 10 A to the legislation keeping in the mind development needs of the society.
He said the mandatory “consent” clause and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) will not be applicable if the land is acquired for five purposes including national security, defence, rural infrastructure including electrification, industrial corridors and building social infrastructure including PPP where ownership of land continues to be vested with the government.
However, the compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement packages will be applicable as per the new Land Acquisition Act for acquiring land for these purposes.
As per the changes brought in the ordinance, multi-crop irrigated land can also be acquired for these purposes.
“Such projects are vital to national security and defence of India including preparation for defence and defence production,” Jaitley said justifying the government’s decision to bring changes in the Act enacted during previous UPA rule.
Asked about the consent clause, Jaitley said “if the land acquisition is for the five purposes, then the consent clause will be exempted”.
The earlier Act provided for consent of 70 percent of land owners whose land is acquired for PPP projects.
Jaitley said there is a mandatory condition for provision of job for those whose land is acquired for industrial corridors.
With this decision, R & R (rehabilitation and resettlement) and compensation provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 will be applicable for the 13 existing central pieces of legislation including the Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition and Development Act, 1957, the National Highways Act, 1956 and the Land Acquisition (Mines) Act, 1885.
Government said Cabinet approved certain amendments in the Act “in order to remove” many difficulties which have been reported and certain amendments have been made to further strengthen the provisions to protect the interests of the ‘affected families’.
In addition, procedural difficulties in the acquisition of land required for important national projects required to be mitigated, the government said in a release.
Government said its decision to bring excluded 13 Acts under the Land Acquisition Act for compensation and Rehabilitation and Resettlement purposes was a “pro-farmer step”.
“In the process of prolonged procedure for land acquisition, neither the farmer is able to get benefit nor is the project completed in time for the benefit of society at large.
“Therefore the present changes allow a fast track process for defence and defence production, rural infrastructure including electrification, housing for poor including affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects including projects taken up under Public Private Partnership mode where ownership of the land continues to be vested with the government,” it said.
The government further said these projects are essential for bringing in better economic opportunities for the people living in these areas and would also help in improving quality of life.
“The existing Act vide Section 105 (read with Schedule IV) has kept 13 most frequently used Acts for Land Acquisition for the central government projects out of the purview.
These Acts are applicable for national highways, metro rail, atomic energy projects, electricity-related other projects etc. Thus, a large percentage of famers and affected families were denied the compensation and R&R measures prescribed under the Act,” it said.
The government said the present amendments bring all those exempted 13 Acts under the purview of this Act for the purpose of compensation as well as rehabilitation and resettlement.
“Therefore, the amendment benefits the farmers and the affected families,” it said.
With the changes, the R & R (rehabilitation and resettlement) and compensation provisions of the Act will be applicable to the laws including the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, the Indian Tramways Act, 1886, the Railways Act, 1989, the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act, 1962 and the Damodar Valley Corporation Act, 1948.
The Electricity Act, 2003; Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act, 1952; the Resettlement of Displaced Persons (Land Acquisition) Act, 1948 and the Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act, 1978 are also brought under its purview to provide higher compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement benefits to farmers whose land is being acquired.
Social Activist Medha Patkar criticised the government’s approving the ordinance amending the Land Acquisition Act 2013.
Patkar, who was consulted by the previous UPA government before enacting the legislation, said the ordinance was issued even before the law has actually been implemented on the ground.
“We fail to understand what is the emergency at this moment that NDA government has to take the Ordinance route. This is only being done as a measure to benefit the corporate houses and nothing else.’
“Rs 20 lakh crore investments are not stuck because of the new land Act since the law has only been in existence for one year,” said her Narmada Bachao Andolan and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a release.
Justifying its decision to make changes in the Act, government said states, Ministries and stakeholders had been reporting many difficulties in the implementation of the legislation.
“Several suggestions came up in interactions with state Revenue Ministers and key implementing Ministries.
Proposed amendments meet the twin objectives of farmer welfare, along with expeditiously meeting the strategic and developmental needs of the country,” the government said.
The Land Acquisition Bill, which seeks to provide just and fair compensation to farmers while ensuring that no land can be aquired forcibly, was passed by parliament in 2013.
The Act had stipulates mandatory consent of at least 70 percent for acquiring land for Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects and 80 percent for acquiring land for private companies.
The Act, which replaced over a century-old law, has made it mandatory compensation that is up to four times the market value in rural areas and two times the market value in urban areas.