Friday, July 31, 2015

NDA may amend land acquisition law through ordinances, yet Ministries acquire land using their own laws

Gujarat protest against land acquisition for N=plant in Mithi Virdi
By Our Representative
A Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) study has revealed that the NDA government has not just refused to invoke crucial provisions of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013 -- social impact assessment (SIA) and people's consent -- for acquiring land ever since it came to power. It has not even invoked some of the "positive" provisions of LARR Act, which remain intact in the ordinances, issued by it to dilute SIA and consent.
The study by the research team of CHRI, which is a well-known Delhi-based advocacy group, says that despite amendments in the three ordinances (issued in December 2014, April 2015 and June 2015) for the purpose issued in order to repeatedly stall implementation of LARR Act, the Union ministries have gone ahead with land acquisition processes under the laws administered by each Ministry.
In fact, Venkatesh Nayak of CHRI says, none of the notifications issued in the first half of 2015 indicate that land was acquired by any Ministry "for defence purposes or rural electrification or affordable housing or housing for the poor – 'special categories of public purposes' for which the appropriate governments may waive the requirement for doing SIAs and the subsequent procedures."
"These exceptions were introduced into the LARR Act through the ordinances", Nayak adds. The CHRI's research team's analysis involved 219 notifications ifor acquiring land, and another 274 for intentions to acquire land. The period taken up for the study is from January 1 to June 30, 2015.
All the 219 land acquisition notifications involved the Ministries of Road Transport and Highways, Railways, Coal and Petroleum and Natural Gas were issued for “public purpose”, the study says, yet, interestingly, to implement them "the sector-specific land acquisition laws administered by each Ministry" were invoked, apparently to ensure that comensation as well as resettlement and rehabilitation issues (part of LARR and the ordinance) are sidetracked.
The Ministries acquired land "for the purpose of building new highways or widening existing ones; prospecting or actually mining for coal; laying down railway tracks (segments of the Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors among others) and pipelines for transporting petroleum, natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)", the study says.
While, land was acquired by these four Ministries in 1,584 villages situated in more than 263 talukas in 141 districts across 22 states, the study says, two land acquisitions took place in Schedule V areas (inhabited by members of Scheduled Tribes) in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
It adds, a large number of segments of land acquired are wetland or irrigated agricultural plots. This happened even though the law requires that any land acquisition in a Scheduled Area must obtain prior consent of the Gram Sabha or the panchayat.
Coming to intention to acquire land by the Ministries of Railways, Road Transport and Highways, Coal, Petroleum and Natural Gas and the Metro Railway in the first half of 2015, the study says, the 274 such notifications issued for various developmental projects involved 2,320 villages in more than 403 talukas in 157 districts across 21 states.
"These Ministries declared their intention to acquire land under their sector-specific land acquisition laws instead of the LARR Act, 2013 despite being brought under this law through the Ordinances issued in December 2014 and again in April and again June 2015 for the purpose, determining compensation and ensuring rehabilitation and resettlement of the displaced persons", the study underlines.
Most of the notifications during the six month period were issued in Uttar Pradesh (34) followed by Rajasthan (33), Gujarat (27), Karnataka (24) and Tamil Nadu (19). In terms of the most number of villages in any state affected by these notifications, Uttar Pradesh tops with 553 villages, followed by Karnataka (349 villages), Chhattisgarh (25 villages), Rajasthan (172 villages) and Gujarat (166 villages)", the study says.
At least seven notifications were for projects in scheduled areas -- three in Jharkhand (two in Ranchi and one in East Singhbhum), and in four in Chhattisgarh (two in Jashpur, and one each in Korba and Surguja. Two notifications for acquisition and five for intentions to acquire land involved private company -- Reliance Industries Ltd -- for the purpose of laying pipelines for transport of natural gas through the State of Madhya Pradesh."

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