Centre re-promulgates ordinance on land acquisition

04 April 2015

The BJP government has embarked on a concerted effort to get the land acquisition bill passes in Parliament after President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday gave his assent to re-promulgation of the ordinance, effective from 5 April.

The government and the opposition have now started a verbal dual over the controversial legislation and the Congress party is gearing up to intensify protests against the bill.

At the BJP's national executive in Bangalore, the first after the party came to power at the centre, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah reiterated their stand on the land acquisition bill and sought to reassure farmers that the law would benefit them.

After the President gave his nod to the re-promulgation of the land acquisition ordinance, Modi promised better life for farmers once the revised bill is passed into law. In fact, he said, any delay in getting the bill passed would adversely affect land holders whose lands were already acquired under the earlier law.

The new ordinance incorporates nine amendments that were added when it was passed in the Lok Sabha last month.

These include removal of social infrastructure from the five categories exempted earlier (defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure and social infrastructure, including public-private partnership projects where the government owns the land). This means that the consent clause and social impact assessment will not be required for the above categories while social infrastructure would require such consent and impact study.

For industrial corridors set up by the government/government undertakings, land up to 1 km on either side of the road/railway of the corridor would be exempt from the consent clause.

The government also dropped an earlier proposal on exemption to government acquiring land for private hospitals and private educational institutions.

In addition, the new bill makes it mandatory for the acquirer to provide employment to ''one member of such affected family of farm labour''.

The law enacted by the previous government had a provision to provide the option of employment to one member of an affected family as part of the Rehabilitation & Resettlement (R&R) award.

Government sources said the early passage of the bill would ensure higher rehabilitation and resettlement package for farmers whose land was acquired under the earlier laws (such as the National Highways Act, 1956, and the Railways Act, 1989) on or after 1 January 2015.

Both the PM and BJP president Amit Shah started an aggressive campaign to win support from farmers and to blunt opposition criticism of the law, which they say is meant to satisfy BJP's corporate friends.

This ordinance is being issued in lieu of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015, and will replace the previous ordinance issued in December.

An ordinance once promulgated has to be approved by Parliament in the very next session to become law. Since this has not happened in the case of the ordinance on land acquisition, it has be repromulgated to keep the legislative process alive.

The government will now have to restart the entire process. The bill will be placed in the Rajya Sabha when it reassembles later this month to complete the budget exercise. If the second attempt fails, it can re-promulgate the ordinance again. However, there is no cap on the number of times an ordinance can be repromulgated.

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