The Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Resettlements (LARR) Bill 2011: Civil Services Mentor Magazine December 2012

The Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Resettlements (LARR)
Bill 2011

The Indian economy has traditionally been an agrarian
economy, where 70% of the population is dependent on agriculture as their
primary source of livelihood. Significantly, land is also the most essential
asset for the development and growth of any nation, particularly in the
infrastructure sector. To fulfill this said objective, the Government has to
acquire land under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and 18 other special Acts,
which are applicable to various other sectors including Highways, Railways and
Ports.

Land acquisition and compensation have always been an
emotional and highly contentious issue between the Government and landowners.
Recent agitations and protests by farmers and land owners against the Government
for unfair compensation and forcible acquisition of land in Singur and Nandigram
(W.Bengal), Jaitapur (Maharashtra) and Greater Noida (U.P) have been witnessed
by the world.

After three rounds of vigorous debate, a Group of Ministers
has approved the controversial Land Acquisition Bill, with few changes from the
version presented to the Union Cabinet last month. This paves the way for the
Bill to be introduced in Parliament in the winter session. Land acquisition is
the process by which the government forcibly acquires private property for
public purpose without the consent of the land-owner. It is thus different from
a land purchase, in which the sale is made by a willing seller. Though land is a
state subject, “acquisition and requisitioning of property” is in the concurrent
list. Both Parliament and state legislatures can make laws on this subject. The
government had introduced a Bill to amend this Act in 2007. That Bill lapsed in
2009 at the time of the general elections. The government enacted a new bill in
2011.

In a history spanning 117 years of pre and post Independence
India, for the first time an honest attempt has been made by the Government of
India to outline an enactment for rehabilitation and resettlement of the
landowners and farmers, whose land is to be acquired under the new draft bill
‘The Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Resettlements (LARR) Bill 2011’. The
said bill seeks to strike a fine balance between the need for facilitating land
acquisition for various public purposes, including infrastructure development,
industrialization and urbanization, while at the same time eloquently addressing
the apprehensions and fears of the landowners and farmers and those whose
livelihoods are dependent on the land being acquired, by providing a transparent
and legal framework aimed at adequately compensating people for the loss of
their land as well as ensuring the suitable rehabilitation of those who have
been displaced.

The preamble to the Bill says ‘A Draft Bill to balance the
need for facilitating land acquisition for industrialisation, development of
essential infrastructure facilities and urbanisation, while at the same time to
meaningfully address the concerns of farmers and those whose livelihoods are
dependent on the land being acquired’. While the ultimate end of land use here
is specified as a matter of public purpose the present function of the land as
meeting the public purpose of food security is diluted to highlight it merely as
a social concern of the farmers. The issue is dealt as a case that can be solved
through monetary compensation. Only the social security aspect of the farmers is
focused here, though not completely, while the ecological and food security
aspects remain in the dark.

The preamble also claims that the draft bill aims to mitigate
the adverse impacts on habitats and is sensitive to the natural resource base.
But the claim is not reflected in the clauses that follow. It also speaks about
ensuring a humane, participatory, informed, consultative and transparent process
of land acquisition and the realization of a stage in which the affected persons
become partners in development. It is true that the draft policy does have
indications of being more humane, participatory, consultative and transparent
compared to the existing law.

The issues raised here is to highlight how much more humane, participatory,
consultative and transparent it can aspire to be.

While appreciating the concept of partnership in development,
the note also attempts to highlight the nature of development envisaged by the
policy makers and the extent of partnership offered to the stakeholders
concerned.

LANDOWNER CONSENT

Despite sharp divisions over the consent requirements,
sources at the GoM indicated that the final draft says only two-thirds of
landowners will have to agree before land can be acquired for private sector
projects as well as joint private-public partnerships. The original Bill had
called for 80 per cent consent from both landowners as well as those who stood
to lose their livelihood. Industry lobbyists had pushed for this requirement to
be diluted. It is not clear what has been decided on the other controversial
issue of retrospective effect. The original Bill had stipulated that its
compensation and rehabilitation provisions would apply retrospectively to
ongoing acquisitions which had not yet completed the process of land transfer
under the old Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Sources say this clause has been
removed and instead, a cut-off date — to be decided later — will be set for the
new Act’s provisions to come into force. “The Bill is finalised. We have
finalised the draft,” Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who chaired the GoM,
told journalists after the meeting. “On each and every issue where there were
different views, we succeeded in bringing [about] some understanding.” The Bill,
now named The Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and
Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill, was originally introduced in Parliament
in September 2011. Thereafter, it was referred to a Standing Committee. The
Cabinet, which considered a revised draft last month, referred the Bill to the
GoM after several Ministers objected to provisions that were seen as hurdles to
infrastructure development and investor sentiment.

Some Revolutionary Features of this Bill Impacting Urban and Rural Areas:

  • It mandates that the awarded compensation amount is not less than twice
    that of the market value determined, whereas in the rural areas it will be
    not less than six times the original market value.
  • It also proposes that the consent of 80% of the
    project-affected families will be mandatory, if the Government proposes to
    acquire land for the use by private companies for stated public purpose or
    PPP projects other than that for national highways.

  • The draft bill further suggests that under no
    circumstances should multi-cropped, irrigated land be acquired and most of
    such land lies in the Indo-Genetic plains covering Punjab, Haryana, Uttar
    Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar.

  • The draft bill also gives some relief to the landowners by creating a
    provision that it will not be acquiring land for private companies for their
    ‘private purpose’.


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