[dropcap]I[/dropcap] India’s land acquisition act has been in the center of controversies in the recent days. One must agree that this is the most complex piece of legislation, which, unfortunately, is very critical for the progress of the country. The present NDA government amended the Land Acquisition bill by using an unusual maneuver, i.e., through the use of ordinance route, which has drawn criticism from various corners. Also, the use of the ordinance route has given an opportunity for the opposition to create suspicion in the minds of people, that this step is anti-farmer and pro-corporate. Here are some of the facts about it.
What is Land acquisition act?
The Land Acquisition Act was passed in 1894, and allows the government to acquire private land for public purposes, which could be for large-scale development like building roads, industries, mining, public-private partnership (PPP) projects, etc.
In the present scenario, the act that had been passed in 1894 had become obsolete and needed amendments. So the Parliament under the UPA government in 2013 passed The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act to repeal the nineteenth-century act. This was to ensure that land was acquired for strictly public welfare projects and land owners were adequately compensated, which would include monetary relief as well as proper rehabilitation.
However UPA government had created Section 105 in the 2013 Act, under which the 13 acts of parliament, including National Highways, Railways, Coal mines, Atomic Energy etc., were put under Schedule 4, meaning that these acts were considered as exempted purposes. So to implement these exempted purposes the consent of 80% of the people in the area where these are implemented are not needed, Social Impact Assessment (SIA), Right to Food is also not required. Affected people will be provided with compensation coupled with Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) package. This is the original act.
Within a year, NDA government came to power and brought amendments to it. They increased the compensation provided in the above 13 acts(4 times the market rate + R&R). Not only that, they included 5 more acts in the above list. They are
- The defense and security of India
- Rural infrastructure, including electrification.
- Affordable housing and housing for poor.
- Industrial corridors
- Infrastructure and social infrastructure projects, including those under public-private partnership, where ownership of the land vests with the Governments.
Whether these included acts are anti-farmer and pro-corporate?
It is shocking to note that, the UPA government did not include, National Security & defense in the exempted purposes. So to set up a defense installation, the GOI had to explain where and why it is required and also had to ask the consent of 80% of people residing there along with social impact assessment. Also, the foreign countries will be completely aware of these details, which is a threat to the National Security. And also if the installation is not completed within 5 years, then the land has to be returned to the concerned people. So, this step can be considered as required in the national security interest, as it was blocking many strategic decisions from past few years.
Second, rural infrastructure, including electrification, highways, fly over and irrigation, etc. If these were not included under exempted act, then even the highly successful Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana also will not get the land. These infrastructures will not only add value to the farmers’ land, but also will contribute to the development of the country.
Third, affordable housing and housing for poor. Remember these houses are not built by private builders but by the government. These will benefit the people who have migrated to the urban areas from rural.
Fourth, industrial corridors, today the GDP of agriculture is 15% and 60 percentages of the people are depending on it. So, it is required to facilitate more and more people depending on agriculture to shift to the manufacturing sector. However, this act must be seriously debated and consent must be given after verifying the minute details. Industries are required for employment generation and also to fulfill the GOI’s ambitious ‘Make In India’ campaign. Note that, the corridor will not be more than 2km wide.
Finally, infrastructure and social infrastructure projects, including those under public-private partnership, where ownership of the land vests with the Governments. This is bound to benefit the entire country, particularly the people in rural areas where infrastructure and social infrastructure is inadequate. Even the Former Union Minister Anand Sharma had written to the then PM Manmohan Singh on this issue.
Seeing the controversy created on this issue, one can safely say that the Modi government has failed (rather late) in explaining to the people, why the amendments are made in the act and why was it required to take the ordinance route to pass the bill. Activists like Anna Hazare, Medha Patkar are being given one more opportunity to reap the attention from the situation created. A lot of misinformation is being spread by showing the selected excerpts from the bill. As Arun Jaitley said in the parliament, I quote “Please don’t don’t create an environment where infrastructure & industry become bad words”.
The development of the country is inevitable, because of the growing aspirations of the people. Therefore, suitable balanced actions must be taken by the government to channelize these aspirations. Development and justice to the landowner are like the two faces of the same coin. One cannot be done at the cost of the other. Let there be a debate in the parliament in the interest of the nation.
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