Saturday, October 08, 2016

Gujarat front-runner in "copying" Govt of India's effort to dilute Land Acquisition Act, 2013: Researchers

By Our Representative
A comparison of the “amendments” carried out by different Indian states for diluting the UPA-adopted Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RFCLARR) Act, 2013 suggests that Gujarat is the frontrunner in “copying” the changes, as proposed in the Act by the NDA after it came to power in 2014.
While the NDA government, under public pressure, “suspended” the changes it had sought to bring in through ordinance for diluting the RFCLARR Act, 2013, two researchers, Kanchi Kohli and Debayan Gupta, have said, Gujarat has "gone ahead" of other states “by incorporating all of the amendments, which the NDA has been trying to pass for the last two years, in the form of the RFCTLARR (Gujarat Amendment) Act, 2016.”
Quoting from the Statement of Object and Reasons of the Gujarat Act, the researchers say, the Act “aims to dilute the stringent provisions and make the ‘lengthy’ and ‘difficult’ process of land acquisition ‘smooth and easy’ since Gujarat is an ‘industrially progressive’ state.”
“The Amendment exempts projects that are vital to the national security or defense of India, rural infrastructural projects, affordable housing for poor people, industrial corridors and other infrastructural projects, including projects under public private partnerships from the purview of the RFCTLARR Act, 2013 and thus the provisions related to Social Impact Assessment (SIA) and consent do not apply to such projects”, the researchers say.
Titled “Mapping Dilutions in a Central Law: A Comparative Analysis of State Level Rules made under RFCTLARR Act, 2013”, the researchers’ working paper says, “The Department of Land Resources (DoLR), the Union Ministry of Rural Development and the Union Ministry of Home Affairs noted that the amendments in the Gujarat Bill are very similar to the ones which the NDA government has been trying to pass"
Referring them to the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the land bill, the DoLR, the Union Ministry of Rural Development and the Union Home Ministry refused to send the Bill to the President for his assent. "This", the researchers says, was “overlooked", and the Bill did eventually find its way to the President of India", becoming a law on As of August 8, 2016.
Noting that “dilution in the consent clauses in other states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Telangana and Rajasthan has been done by way of similar :amendments”, the researchers note the Tamil Nadu state assembly “passed the RFCTLARR (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2014", introduced a new section.
Under it, "land acquisition carried out under the Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Harijan Welfare Schemes Act, 1978, the Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes Act, 1997 and the Tamil Nadu Highways Act, 2001 is exempt from provisions of the RFCTLARR Act.”
“Fourfifths of the acquisition carried out in the state of Tamil Nadu is through these three Acts, and requirements for consent are absent in all three Acts. The RFCTLARR here is rendered obsolete in the cases where land is acquired under these Acts”, the researchers say.
Coming to other states, the researchers say, “Rules of the Maharashtra Government and the Draft Rajasthan Land Acquisition Bill also dilute the consent requirement of the Central Act. Both these Rules mention that consent will be taken for private projects only and not for PPPs.”
As for Telangana, on July 30, 2015, the Government of Telangana passed an order whose framework “allows land owners to participate in the development process by willingly selling their land for consideration, on the basis of an agreement between the land owners and the Procuring Agency.”
Saying that the “Procuring Agency as approved by the District Level Land Procurement Committee (DLLPC) is to be headed by the District Collector”, the researchers note, “The order of the Telangana Government, as opposed to the Central Act, provides for compensation only to the people with land and there is no provision for the landless poor and labourers.”

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