Govt to promulgate ordinance on land acquisition for a third time

The union cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi today decided to recommend to the President the re-promulgation of the `Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015', an amended version of the earlier Act which had come into force on 1 January 2014.

The ordinance has already been promulgated twice, first on 31 December last year and then on 3 April this year.

The present ordinance will lapse on 3 June and the next session of Parliament is expected to begin only around 20 July, though there is no chance of getting the amended bill passed by Parliament by then.

A government notification stated that the re-promulgation is being done to ensure higher rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) package for the farmers whose land is acquired under 13 laws, including the National Highways Act, 1956 and the Railways Act, 1989, on or after 1 January 2015.

The entire exercise of re-promulgation is being initiated at a time when the government failed to evolve a consensus on 'Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Second Bill, 2015''.

The government has no problem in getting the bill passed in the Lok Sabha because of its majority, but the Rajya Sabha is still a `no go' zone for the amended bill as the BJP there is in minority.

With NDA members such as the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal also opposing the bill, which they say is anti-farmer, the government has referred the Bill to the 30-member joint panel.

The NDA government headed by Narendra Modi has amended the Act by mainly relaxing the consent clause for taking over land for certain projects that the government considers are of national importance.

According to the government, the implantation of the earlier Act faced several difficulties in addition to procedural difficulties in the acquisition of lands required for important national projects.

Also, according to the government, changes in the provisions of the Act will enable farmers to get better compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement benefits in lieu of land compulsorily acquired by the appropriate government.

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation & Resettlement Act, 2013 came into effect from 1. January 2014. However, it has been reported that many difficulties are being faced in the implementation of the Act.

In addition, procedural difficulties in the acquisition of lands required for important national projects required to be resolved.

In order to remove them, certain amendments were made in the Act while further strengthening the provisions to protect the interests of the 'affected families'.

In view of the urgency, these were brought about by a Presidential Ordinance on 31 December 2014. Subsequently, on 10 March 2015 the Lok Sabha passed the Amendment Bill to replace the Ordinance (See: Lok Sabha clears land bill, Congress walks out).

The amended bill passed in the Lok Sabha, however, includes some further changes to the ordinance.

The important changes brought about by the amendment is that the compensation in accordance with the First Schedule and rehabilitation and resettlement specified in the Second and Third Schedules of the Act are extended to the 13 Acts mentioned in the Fourth Schedule of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation & Resettlement Act, 2013, which include:

  • The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958,
  • The Atomic Energy Act, 1962,
  • The Damodar Valley Corporation Act, 1948,
  • The Indian Tramways Act, 1886,
  • The Land Acquisition (Mines)Act, 1885,
  • The Metro Railways (Construction of Works)Act, 1978,
  • The National Highways Act, 1956,
  • The Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act, 1962;
  • The Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act, 1952,
  • The Resettlement of Displaced Persons (Land Acquisition) Act, 1948,
  • The Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition and Development Act, 1957,
  • The Electricity Act, 2003 and
  • The Railways Act, 1989.

The ordinance seeks to expedite the process of land acquisition for strategic and development activities such as national security or defence of India, including preparation for defence and defence production, rural infrastructure including electrification, affordable housing and housing for poor, industrial corridors set up by the appropriate government and its undertakings (in which case the land shall be acquired up to 1 km on both sides of the designated railway line or roads for such industrial corridors), infrastructure projects including projects under public private partnership where the ownership of the land continues to vest with the government.

The amended ordinance empowers appropriate governments to take steps for exemption from `social impact assessment' and `special provisions for safeguarding food security'. In addition, acquisition for such projects are exempted from the `consent' provisions of the Act as well.

However, the governments are required to ensure that the extent of land for the proposed acquisition, is the bare minimum required for the project. The appropriate government is also required to undertake a survey of wastelands, including arid land and maintain a record detailing the same.