Sunday, March 01, 2015

Govt of India wants to "reduce" land acquisition Act into compensation granting mechanism

By Our Representative
One of the world's most influential NGOs, Oxfam, taking strong exception to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) ordinance, which was hurriedly brought in to replace the LARR Act late last year, has asked the Government of India to roll it back immediately. The ordinance is now being sought to be replaced by an amendment law by the Modi government.
Headquartered in UK, Oxfam in a recent note has said, “By undoing the applicability of the LARR law on critical sectors where the largest amount of land acquisition is taking place, like industrial corridors or mines, the 2014 ordinance reduces the law to a compensation granting mechanism.”
Currently before Parliament for nod, Oxfam says, the LARR ordinance has especially done away with the processes such as social impact assessment (SIA) which was a significant gain and was “welcomed by affected people and social movements”. Then, it has sought to do away with the 2013 law's provision of "seeking consent from owners of land in case land is being acquired for private sector projects or projects under public private partnership (PPP).”
Saying this should not be allowed, Oxfam says, these changes would only go to help “many projects including mining, SEZs, transportation, tourism”, hence they should be “immediately undone and no further dilutions should be allowed”.
Other changes sought by Oxfam include revoking “exemptions to SIA on acquisition of land multicropped land”, and reinstatement of 2013 Act's “provisions related to return of unutilized land” to the original owner. It adds, there are in all “nineteen amendments floated by the Ministry of Rural Development, with possibilities existing for “adversely modifying the rates of compensation”.
Oxfam takes objection to the ordinance adding a “new section to the 2013 Act, which includes a range of projects for which the provisions of SIA and food security safeguards will not apply. This includes acquisition of land for defence or national security projects, infrastructure projects (including tourism, mining, and transportation), industrial corridors (like Special Economic Zones) and affordable housing for low income groups.”
Oxfam also disagrees to the ordinance's provision which ensures that there is no cognizance of offence made by government employees in any court without it being first sanctioned by the government. “The 2013 Act had put the liability of any offence committed under the Act, directly on the head of a government department”, adds Oxfam.
Calling the LARR ordinance, 2014 “a conscious and retrograde step, which aims to bring about long-term changes targeted primarily towards speedy land acquisition for project developers”, Oxfam believes, it is “likely to create more social and environmental conflicts rather than resolve them.”
Prepared by Kanchi Kohli, a researcher on environment, forest and biodiversity governance, for Oxfam's India branch, the note concludes that the ordinance is “in favour of those acquiring land rather than the project impacted communities, especially those who are poor and landless.”

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