Reforms push: Cabinet clears land acquisition ordinance

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on November 25, 2017


Clauses for social impact assessment, approval of 80% of affected people go

The Centre today recommended an ordinance to make significant changes to the Land Acquisition Act so as to fasttrack projects in key sectors such as power, roads, defence and housing.

A Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, took note of the difficulties in implementing the Land Acquisition Act. The Centre claimed that the amendments will strengthen the provisions to protect the interests of the ‘affected families’ and also reduce procedural difficulties in acquiring land required for ‘development’.

The Centre has been interacting with States on the Act. In June, several States, including those ruled by the Opposition, had conveyed to the Centre that the present Act was creating trouble in acquiring land for even State projects. Their main objections were to the compulsory consent of 80 per cent of the affected landowners and the social impact assessment of the alienated land.

The Act had kept out of its purview 13 most frequently used laws for land acquisition. The Centre was supposed to bring in a notification in Parliament to extend the provisions of compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) to the people affected by land acquisition carried through the 13 Central Acts, as mentioned in the Fourth Schedule. However, the Centre said the ordinance will bring these Acts under the purview of the Land Acquisition Act. “These Acts are applicable for national highways, Metro rail, electricity-related projects, etc. Thus, a large percentage of farmers and affected families were denied the compensation and R&R measures prescribed under the Act,” a Government statement said, adding the amendments will benefit farmers and affected families.

The ordinance proposes 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 the public-private partnership mode). The ordinance does away with the clauses on compulsory social impact assessment and approval of 80 per cent of people whose land is being acquired.

Move criticised

The Centre’s move has met with stiff opposition. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: “The issue is of legislation of vital matters like land acquisition by stealth and ordinance. How can we support that?” “Ordinance Raj cannot last beyond the Budget session.”

Land rights activists like Medha Patkar said the dilution of the need for people’s consent and conducting the social impact assessment for all the projects is completely uncalled for and will only make matters worse.

Published on December 29, 2014

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