Govt unveils draft Land Acquisition Bill

Last Updated: Saturday, July 30, 2011 - 10:47

New Delhi: Amid a raging controversy over
land acquisition, the government on Friday unveiled a new draft bill
putting in place a transparent, legal framework aimed at
giving adequate compensation to land owners and ensuring
rehabilitation of those displaced.



The much-awaited `The Draft National Land Acquisition
and Rehabilitation & Resettlement Bill, 2011`, which has been
put in public domain, says "in case of urban areas, the award
amount would be not less that twice that of the market value
determined whereas in rural areas it would be not less that
six times the original market value".



The draft bill proposes that the consent of 80 per
cent of the project-affected families will be mandatory if the
government acquires land for use by private companies for
stated public purpose or PPP projects other than that for
national highway.

It also states that the public purpose once stated
cannot be changed.



The draft suggests that under no circumstances should
multi-cropped, irrigated land be acquired. Most of such land
lies in the Indo-Gangetic plains covering Punjab, Haryana,
Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar.



Also government will not be acquiring land for private
companies for private purpose.



Observing that land markets in India are "imperfect",
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said his foreword to
the draft that there is asymmetry of power and information
between those wanting to acquire the land and those whose
lands are being acquired.



"That is why there has to be a role for the government
to put in place a transparent and flexible set of rules and
regulations and to ensure its enforcement," he said.



The draft bill authorises the government to invoke
"urgency clause" to acquire land in the cases of national
defence and security purposes, rehabilitation and resettlement
(R&R) needs in the event of emergencies or natural calamities
and in any "rarest of rare" cases.



The salient features of the draft bill include a
comprehensive rehabilitation package for land owners and
livelihood losers, including the landless who are primarily
dependent on the land being acquired.



It entails subsistence allowance at Rs 3000 per month
per family for 12 months and Rs 2000 per family as annuity for
20 years, with appropriate index for inflation. It also makes
it mandatory to provide employment to one member of family or
Rs 2 lakh if a job is not offered and other incentives.



For land owners, it also has a provision of one acre
of land in the command area (of the project) for each family
if their land has been acquired for an irrigation project.



In case of land acquisition for urbanisation, 20 per
cent of developed land will be reserved and offered to the
owners in proportion to the land taken.



If a tribal`s land is acquired, one acre of land
should be given to each Scheduled Tribes` family in every
project. It also says one time financial assistance of Rs
50,000 should also be given to the ST families, whose land is
taken.

Ramesh said the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation &
Resettlement have been combined in one bill as they are two
sides of the same coin.



Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) had
recommended the government to combine the two.



"R&R must always, in each instance necessarily follow
upon acquisition of land. Not combining the two- R&R and land
acquisition- within one law, risks neglect of R&R. This has,
indeed, been the experience thus far," Ramesh said, adding the
the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 has become archaic.



The Bill envisages establishment of a National
Monitoring Committee for reviewing and overseeing R & R plans.
For speedy disposal of disputes related to acquisition,
compensation and R&R, the states shall set up Land Acquisition
Dispute Settlement Authority.

There are 18 laws of the central government for land
acquisition (like for highways, SEZs, defence, railways etc).
The draft bill will enjoy primacy over other such laws, Ramesh
said, noting, "the provisions of the draft bill will be in
addition to and not in derogation of the existing safeguards
currently provided for in these laws".

He said the draft is fully compliant with provision of
Forest Rights Act, 2006, and other statutes.

The bill seeks to "ensuring a humane, participatory,
informed, consultative and transparent process and above all
ensuring that the cumulative outcome of compulsory acquisition
should be that affected persons become partners in
development."

Ramesh said in every case, land acquisition must take
place in a manner that fully protects the interests of
land-owners and also of those whose livelihoods depend on the
land being acquired.

"Under our Constitution, land is a State subject but
land acquisition is a Concurrent subject. So far, the basic
law governing the land acquisition process has been the Land
Acquisition Act, 1894. Although it has been amended from time
to time, it is painfully evident that the basic law has
become archaic," he said.

The minister said the issue of who acquires land is
less important than the process of land acquisition,
compensation for land acquired and the R&R process, package
and conditions.

"This draft Bill specifies these irrespective of the
ratios of private and government acquisition. The objective is
to make the process of land acquisition easy, transparent and
fair for both sides in each instance," he said.

Ramesh said his ministry has launched initiatives to
update and digitise land records and to move from a
presumptive system to a conclusive system.

The bill says that only R&R provisions will apply when
private companies buy land, equal to or more than 100 acres,
on their own or private company approaches government for
partial acquisition for public purpose.



However, there was some ambiguity on whether the
provisions will apply if the acquisition by private players is
less than 100 acres.



The bill, which extends to the whole of India except
Jammu and Kashmir, seeks to "comprehensively defining and
identifying project affected persons/families to ensure that
they are provided with a just compensation and rehabilitation
and resettlement package, sensitive to the aspirations,
culture, community, natural resource base and skill base of
the affected people", Ramesh said.



PTI



First Published: Friday, July 29, 2011 - 18:07

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