First law to link land acquisition, rehab

Sat 31 Aug 2013


The land acquisition Bill, renamed the Right To Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012, was passed in the Lok Sabha on Thursday. Jairam Ramesh , Rural Development Minister, in an interview withGirija Shivakumar , says the old law was draconian and led to pauperisation of livelihood losers.

How do you see the Bill playing an important role in kicking off the stalled development process as land acquisition is seen as a major hindrance to projects?

One of the major reasons why land acquisition was delayed was the series of litigation that plagued it. People would go to court against procedures that violated basic norms of due process. Another cause of action were the low rates of compensation.

As a result, there are acquisition proceedings that have been pending for decades. This law seeks to address all those shortcomings.

Could you list a few salient features of this landmark law?

Compensation : Given the inaccurate nature of circle rates, the Bill proposes payment of compensation that is up to four times the market value in rural areas and twice the market value in urban areas.

R&R: This is the very first law that links land acquisition and the accompanying obligations for resettlement and rehabilitation. Over five chapters and two entire Schedules have been dedicated to outlining elaborate processes (and entitlements) for resettlement and rehabilitation. The Second Schedule in particular outlines the benefits (such as land for land, housing, employment and annuities) that shall accrue in addition to one-time cash payments.

Compensation for livelihood losers: The Bill provides compensation to those who are dependent on the land being acquired for their livelihood, besides to those losing land.

Consent: In cases where PPP projects are involved or acquisition is taking place for private companies, the Bill requires the consent of no less than 70% and 80% respectively (in both cases) of those whose land is sought to be acquired. This ensures that no forcible acquisition will take place.

What does the Bill have in store for farmers and rural India, who faced exploitation in land acquisition in the past?

Retrospective effect: Where awards are made but no compensation has been paid or possession has not been taken, compensation shall be paid at the rate prescribed under the new Act. Where the award has not been made, the entire process shall be considered to have lapsed. Also, where acquisition took place five years prior to the commencement of the new law but no compensation has been paid/possession has taken place, the proceedings shall be deemed to have lapsed.

Consent: Prior consent is required from 70 per cent of land losers and those working on government assigned lands only in the case of public-private partnership projects and 80 per cent in the case of private companies. This consent also includes consent for the amount of compensation payable. Share in sale of acquired land increased: The share that has to be distributed amongst farmers in the increased land value (when the acquired land is sold off to another party) has been set at 40%.

Strict restrictions on multi-crop acquisition: The acquisition of agricultural and multi-crop land has to be done as a last resort. There will be definite restrictions on the extent of acquisition of such land to be determined by the States concerned.

Could you explain the freedom given to States in dealing with acquisition issues

Only a baseline: The Bill only provides the baseline for compensation and has devised a sliding scale which allows States to fix the multiplier (which will determine the final award) depending on distance from urban centres.

Choice for return to Land Bank or owner: Where unutilised land is returned, the State can decide whether it goes to the original owner or the Land Bank.

Threshold for private purchase left to government: While the Bill requires the discharge of obligations related to Resettlement and Rehabilitation even in the case of private purchase, provided the purchase exceeds a certain threshold, it leaves the said threshold to the discretion of the State governments.

States free to enact other laws: The State governments are free to enact any law to enhance or add to the entitlements enumerated under the Bill, conferring higher compensation than what is payable under the Bill or making provisions for better rehabilitation and resettlement.

Some industry lobbies think the law will lead to a steep hike in land prices.

True, the cost of acquisition is higher under this law. But it has been done to reflect the current value of land. It has also been done to prevent exploitation of the small farmer.

It is our objective to actively encourage other less displacing options such as lease and private purchase. In the case of the latter, the rates will be those negotiated between parties. In fact, in 20 years’ time, there should be only purchases and no government acquisition except in well-defined extraordinary circumstances.

It has been said the land Bill could potentially dissuade companies from investing in India.

This is a statement of opinion rather than fact. In fact, these fears are largely exaggerated and overblown. Farmers, tribals and Dalits will all benefit.

Any Bill that protects the interests of these weaker sections is in the national interest. Any Bill that closes the door on forcible acquisition is also in the national interest. Industry is certainly an important stakeholder but the Bill has to be judged in totality and not from a sectional point of view.

The old law was draconian and led to the pauperisation of livelihood losers.

[source:TheHindu]

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