Land Acquisition means “acquiring land” for “public purpose” (constructing health /educational institutions or for any other welfare scheme) and paying a government-fixed compensation to cover losses incurred by the land owners.
Till 2013, whenever government acquired a land, it was done under “Land Acquisition Act 1894”
The procedure followed was cumbersome and costly, often resulting in inordinate delay in land acquisition, and peopleviewed the act as draconian (unusually harsh law). In genuine projects also, there was a considerable difference between the market value of the property and the value that the land acquisition officer pays the land owners.
In 2007, UPA introduced “Amendment Bill” and “Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill” in the parliament to replace this Land Acquisition Act 1984. But, both bills lapsed in 2009 (were not passed).
Finally in 2013 UPA Government passed Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act (RFCTLAAR Act) 2013. It came into force on January 1, 2014.
In May 2014, BJP-led NDA came into power and took over the government. It decided to make amendments to the Bill passed by UPA Government.
These amendments are:
- It brings back the 13 laws that were excluded by UPA Government while passing the RFCTLAAR Act 2013. The 13 laws contain provisions for compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement.
- It removes the provision of “consent” for acquiring lands for 5 purposes:
- Industrial corridors
- Public private partnership (PPP) projects
- Rural infrastructure
- Affordable housing
Ordinance also exempts these 5 type of projects from “Social Impact Assessment” and acquisition of irrigated multicropped land (earlier the 5 above areas-concerning projects could not acquire beyond a limit) .
- RFCTLAAR Act 2013 said that if acquired land remains unutilized for 5 years, it should be returned back to the owner. However, the ordinance says that if the acquired land remains unutilized for 5 years, or ANY PERIOD THAT IS SPECIFIED AT THE STARTING OF THE PROJECT (whichever is later), then the land will be returned to its owner.
- If the possession of acquired land under Act 1984 is not taken for reasons, then the new law will be applied.
- According to RFCTLAAR Act 2013 – land can be acquired by any private COMPANY. But, according to ordinance, land can be acquired by any private ENTITY. A private entity is any entity other than government entity, and includes proprietorship, partnership, non-profit organizations, company, corporations, or others.
- If any offence is committed by government officials or Head of Departments, then s/he cannot be prosecuted without the prior sanction of the government.
Prime Minister Modi leading the government from the front had directed all his MPs to aggressively defend the Bill and not be affected by the oppositions’ charges.
However facing serious oppositions, maximum resistance and protests the government has said that it will initiate talks with the opposition parties on the controversial Land Acquisition Bill, after Union Finance Minister ArunJaitley returns from the U.S. later this week.
Social activist Anna Hazare has now announced a 1,100-km foot march – on the lines of the historic Dandi March by Mahatma Gandhi – to put pressure on the BJP government at the Centre to stay clear of amending Land Acquisition Act.
The decision is yet to be made.!!!