Economy

Land Bill: Govt mulls easing up on consent clause, clarity on compensation

Shishir Sinha New Delhi | Updated on January 24, 2018

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Even as a Joint Parliamentary Panel is looking into the controversial Land Bill, which seeks to replace the Land Act of 2013, the National Democratic Alliance is considering diluting the controversial consent clause and offering more clarity on compensation to farmers to make the piece of legislation more acceptable.

A highly-placed source told BusinessLine that “an important element of the strategy is to get the report adopted unanimously in the joint panel. This will help in getting the revised Bill passed in Parliament in the shortest possible time.” Since the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the Biju Janata Dal do not favour amendments to the Act, the government will try to push key changes in the Bill to make it more acceptable.

Consent clause

The two key changes relate to the consent clause and the social impact assessment.

According to the source, provisions could be made in the revised draft Bill for making consent and social impact assessment mandatory for various projects.

The new Bill mentions five categories (land acquisition for strategic and development activities, such as, national security or defence, including preparation for defence and defence production; rural infrastructure, including electrification; affordable housing and housing for poor; industrial corridors set up by government and its undertakings; and infrastructure projects including projects under public-private partnership where the ownership of the land continues to vest with the government) for exemption from the consent clause and social impact assessment, but critics say hardly is anything left after exempting these five categories.

Another change relates to the definition of private entity. While the 2013 Act was applicable for the acquisition of land for private companies, the 2015 Bill changed this to acquisition for ‘Private Entity’.

Defined as one other than a government entity, a ‘Private Entity’ can include a proprietorship, partnership, company, corporation, non-profit organisation, or any other entity under any other law. Now, the plan is to replace ‘Private Entity’ with ‘Private Company.’

Compensation

Similarly, an effort is on to bring clarity on compensation.

The new thinking is to make a definitive provision of two times the market value in urban areas and four times the market value in rural areas rather than “up to 2 times” and “up to 4 times”, respectively, in the Bill.

“This will certainly mollify a number of farmers’ organisations which have lot of concerns over the graded compensation formulae,” the source said.

All these changes were discussed at the July 21 Cabinet meeting but no decision was taken as the Parliamentary panel is yet to finalise its report.

However, “deliberation will pave the way to approve changes in due course,” the source said, adding that since ‘land’ falls under the State list and ‘acquisition and requisitioning of property’ under the concurrent list, States already have enough flexibility under the Constitution to frame their own laws. In fact, 80 laws have been enacted by States on the basis of the 1894 Land Act.

Joint panel

The Parliamentary panel will record evidence till Monday and start discussing the Bill clause by clause from Tuesday.

The panel is expected to submit its report by August 3.

Published on July 26, 2015

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