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Current Affairs for IAS - Land Acquisition objective and analysis

Feb 16, 2017 12:51 IST

    Land Acquisition Act analysisSince the commencement of the Constitution, the Land Rights have been the most controversial. It has frequently caused confrontations between the Supreme Court and the Parliament. Recently, the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Singur land acquisition issue reiterated that the term ‘public purpose’ cannot be arbitrarily invoked to acquire land and hand it over to a private party.

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    In light of the above critical judgment, let’s try to understand the fundamental of land rights and their significance to Indian development.

    What is Land Acquisition?

    Land acquisition is the process by which land owned by private persons is compulsorily acquired. It is different from the selling/buying of land, in which a mutual agreement is concluded between parties based on their willingness to buy/sell.

    Acquisition is where the landowner is forced to relinquish his property. Therefore, land acquisition procedures override the property rights of landowners. This might be justified only if a case can be made for greater public benefits.

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    Present status of individual private land/property rights in India

    Presently, Article 300A provides that no person shall be deprived of his property except by authority of law. Thus, the right to property still remains a legal right or a constitutional right with the following implications:

    (a) It can be regulated, i.e., curtailed, abridged or modified without constitutional amendment by an ordinary law of the Parliament.

    (b) It protects private property against executive action, but not against legislative action.

    (c) In case of violation, the aggrieved person can move to the High Court under Article 226.

    (d) No guaranteed right to compensation in case of acquisition or requisition of the private property by the state.

    However, fundamental rights still carry two provisions which provide for the guaranteed right to compensation in case of acquisition or requisition of the private property by the state.

    (a) When the State acquires the property of a minority educational institution (Article 30); and
    (b) When the State acquires the land held by a person under his personal cultivation and the land is within the statutory ceiling limits (Article 31 A).

    Current Issues and Events

    Year

    Constitutional developments

    1824

    With the sole reason to acquire land for construction of canals, roads and for other public purposes, the British Government first enacted the Regulation I of the land Acquisition Act in whole of the Bengal province.

    1850

    When the dictators were busy developing the railway network, legislation on acquiring land was the need of an hour.

    Therefore, Act VI of 1857 came into the picture, which repealed all the existing enactments relating to the land acquisition.

    1894

    Subsequently, Act X of 1870 was enacted which was later replaced by the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, in order to ratify some of the flaws of Act X of 1870.

    1947

    In the golden year 1947, when the nation was at the nascent stage, government adopted the 1894 Land Acquisition act-unfortunately with many lacunas.

    2003

    The NDA regime, in 2003, brought a Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill but, unfortunately it lapsed.

    2007

    In the backdrop of several political incidents, UPA government also introduced a bill in 2007, which met the same fate.

    2010

    A revised version of the 2007 Bill was re-introduced in 2010.

    2011

    Various protests were staged by agitated farmers against the forced land acquisition. It clearly indicated that the acquisition policy that was introduced in 2010 failed to click with farmers. Finally, to find an amicable solution to the vexed dispute, Government introduced Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill (LARR Bill) in Lok Sabha.

    LARR seeks to replace Land Acquisition Act of 1894 and bring the much-needed clarity on issues of land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement.

    2013

    The 2013 Act narrowed the definition of ‘public purpose’ i.e. the types of projects for which land could be acquired.

    It required the consent of land owners if the project was for a public private partnership (PPP) or a private company.

    Compensation was set at two to four times of prevailing market rates and minimum norms for rehabilitation and resettlement of affected persons were prescribed.

    The Act also required a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) to be conducted to determine whether the potential benefits of the project would outweigh the social costs.

    2015

    The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015 was introduced.

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    Highlights of the 2015 Bill:

    1. This Bill amends the principal Act passed in 2013.

    2. The Bill enables the government to exempt five categories of projects from the requirements of:
    (i) Social impact assessment,
    (ii) Restrictions on acquisition of multi-cropped land, and
    (iii)Consent for private projects and public-private partnerships (PPPs) projects.

    3. The five categories of projects are:
    (i)   Defense,
    (ii)  Rural infrastructure,
    (iii) Affordable housing,
    (iv) Industrial corridors, and
    (v)  Infrastructure including PPPs where the government owns the land.

    4. The Act would apply retrospectively if an award had been made five years earlier and compensation had not been paid or possession not taken. The Bill exempts any period when a court has given a stay on the acquisition while computing the five-year period.

    5. The Act deemed the head of a government department guilty for an offence by the department. The Bill removes this and adds the requirement of prior sanction to prosecute a government employee.

    6. The Bill mandates that employment be provided to at least one member of a family of farm labourers as a part of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement entitlements provided under the Act. It also requires that the government conduct a survey of wasteland, and maintain a record of this land.

    7. The Act establishes a Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Authority to dispose of disputes related to awards made under the Act. The Bill mandates that the hearing of the LARR Authority be held in the district where land is proposed to be acquired.

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    Key Issues of discontentment:

    1. Lack of clarity in defining types of Exempted Projects

    The categories mentioned are vaguely defined and left on the bureaucrat to decide the legitimacy of the project. The term-‘Social Infrastructure’ is highly ambiguous and even the projects not benefiting a public purpose could be fitted by this narrow window defeating the whole motive of rural developments. For example, land acquisition for private hospitals and educational institutes is also included in exempted list.

    2. Removal of consent clause and SIA

    It is unclear why the level of consent required varies by ownership of project – i.e. government, private or public-private. From a land owner’s point of view, it is irrelevant who implements the project for which land is being acquired. He will get the same amount of compensation and other benefits, irrespective of who owns the project. There is no clarity on why the consent requirement should not be uniform across projects.

    -->SIA was incorporated to examine the entire purpose of conducting acquisition and compensation in the form Rehabilitation and Resettlement. SIA, in addition, assisted in the prediction of likely expenditure and loss of a particular project so as to present a clear picture to decide the feasibility of the concerned project, be it social or economical.

    But now the power to decide the social –cultural impact of projects mostly will rely on the government. This erodes the holistic idea of inclusive governance.

    3. Change in definition from private company to ‘private entity’  

    A private entity is defined as an entity other than a government entity and could include a proprietorship, partnership, company, corporation, a non-profit organisation, or another entity under any other law. This will give entities other than government to decide on the compensation and rehabilitation of the aggrieved person.

    Conclusion and Way Ahead:

    In a country like India, wherein more than half of the population is dependent on land for their livelihood, a visionary land acquisition reform can be revolutionary. The stagnation in rural industrialisation can be easily transformed via effective implementation of land laws. Thus, to achieve a neutral legislation on the concerned matter should be of foremost priority considering the benefit of the greater number of citizens as a parameter.

    The success of latest legislation is largely dependent on the executing authorities and hence imposing the doctrine of transparent and accountable bureaucracy is another parameter to be considered.

    Establishment of a Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Authority to dispose of disputes is a welcome change to deal with region –specific problems. The provision of the government to conduct a survey on wasteland is a much-needed resolution for keeping in account all the changes occurring due to the acquisition of certain irrigated land and will also support the government to formulate a better agricultural policy for the concerned area in the near future.

    Moreover, it should be reiterated that all growth is interlinked and interdependent and shared prosperity demands shared responsibility. Hence only a better government to public participation model can help to achieve the far-reaching motive of land acquisition lead development.

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    Comprehensive knowledge of socio-political Current Affair is crucial and necessary for UPSC IAS Exam. Here we provide the analysis on latest land acquisition judgments and recommendations.

    Since the commencement of the Constitution, the Land Rights have been the most controversial. It has frequently caused confrontations between the Supreme Court and the Parliament. Recently, the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Singur land acquisition issue reiterated that the term ‘public purpose’ cannot be arbitrarily invoked to acquire land and hand it over to a private party. In light of the above critical judgment let’s try to understand the fundamental of land rights and their significance to Indian development.


    What is land acquisition?

    Land acquisition is the process by which land owned by private persons is compulsorily acquired. It is different from the selling/buying of land, in which a mutual agreement is concluded between parties based on their willingness to buy/sell. Acquisition is where the land owner is forced to relinquish his property. Therefore, land acquisition procedures override the property rights of land owner. This might be justified only if a case can be made for greater public benefits.

    Present status of individual private land/property rights in India

    Presently, Article 300A provides that no person shall be deprived of his property except by authority of law. Thus, the right to property still remains a legal right or a constitutional right with the following implications:
         
    (a)    It can be regulated i.e., curtailed, abridged or modified without                constitutional amendment by an ordinary law of the Parliament.

    (b)    It protects private property against executive action but not against legislative action.

    (c)    In case of violation, the aggrieved person can move to the High Court under Article 226.

    (d)    No guaranteed right to compensation in case of acquisition or requisition of the private property by the state.


    However, fundamental rights still carries two provisions which provide for the guaranteed right to compensation in case of acquisition or requisition of the private property by the state.

    (a) When the State acquires the property of a minority educational institution (Article 30); and
    (b) When the State acquires the land held by a person under his personal cultivation and the land is within the statutory ceiling limits (Article 31 A).


    Year    Constitutional developments
    1824    With the sole reason to acquire land for construction of canals, roads and for other public purposes, the British Government first enacted the Regulation I of the land Acquisition Act in whole of the Bengal province.
    1850    When the dictators were busy developing the railway network, legislation on acquiring land was the need of an hour. Therefore, Act VI of 1857 came into the picture, which repealed all the existing enactments relating to the land acquisition.
    1894    Subsequently, Act X of 1870 was enacted which was later replaced by the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, in order to ratify some of the flaws of Act X of 1870.
    1947    In the golden year 1947, when the nation was at the nascent stage, government adopted the 1894 Land Acquisition act-unfortunately with many lacunas.
    2003    The NDA regime, in 2003, brought a Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill but, unfortunately it lapsed.
    2007    In the backdrop of several political incidents, UPA government also introduced a bill in 2007, which met the same fate.
    2010    A revised version of the 2007 Bill was re-introduced in 2010.
    2011    Various protests were staged by agitated farmers against the forced land acquisition. It clearly indicated that the acquisition policy that was introduced in 2010 failed to click with farmers. Finally, to find an amicable solution to the vexed dispute, Government introduced Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill (LARR Bill) in Lok Sabha. LARR seeks to replace Land Acquisition Act of 1894 and bring the much-needed clarity on issues of land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement.
    2013    The 2013 Act narrowed the definition of ‘public purpose’ i.e. the types of projects for which land could be acquired.
    It required the consent of land owners if the project was for a public private partnership (PPP) or a private company.
    Compensation was set at two to four times of prevailing market rates and minimum norms for rehabilitation and resettlement of affected persons were prescribed.
    The Act also required a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) to be conducted to determine whether the potential benefits
    of the project would outweigh the social costs
    2015    The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015 was introduced.

    Highlights of the 2015 Bill:

    1.    This Bill amends the principal Act passed in 2013.

    2.    The Bill enables the government to exempt five categories of projects from the requirements of:
    (i)    Social impact assessment,
    (ii)    Restrictions on acquisition of multi-cropped land, and
    (iii)    Consent for private projects and public private partnerships (PPPs) projects.

    3.    The five categories of projects are:
    (i)    Defense,
    (ii)    Rural infrastructure,
    (iii)    Affordable housing,
    (iv)    Industrial corridors, and
    (v)    Infrastructure including PPPs where government owns the land.

    4.    The Act would apply retrospectively, if an award had been made five years earlier and compensation had not been paid or possession not taken. The Bill exempts any period when a court has given a stay on the acquisition while computing the five year period.
    5.    The Act deemed the head of a government department guilty for an offence by the department. The Bill removes this, and adds the requirement of prior sanction to prosecute a government employee.

    6.    The Bill mandates that employment be provided to at least one member of a family of farm laborers as a part of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement entitlements provided under the Act. It also requires that the government conduct a survey of wasteland, and maintain a record of this land.
     
    7.    The Act establishes a Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Authority to dispose disputes related to awards made under the Act. The Bill mandates that the hearing of the LARR Authority be held in the district where land is proposed to be acquired.


    Key Issues of discontentment:
    1.    Lack of clarity in defining types of Exempted Projects
    The categories mentioned are vaguely defined and left on the bureaucrat to decide the legitimacy of the project. The term-‘Social Infrastructure’ is highly ambiguous and even the projects not benefiting a public purpose could be fitted by this narrow window defeating the whole motive of rural developments. For example land acquisition for private hospitals and educational institutes is also included in exempted list.

    2.    Removal of consent clause and SIA
    It is unclear why the level of consent required varies by ownership of project – i.e. government, private or public-private. From a land owner’s point of view it is irrelevant who implements the project for which land is being acquired. He will get the same amount of compensation and other benefits, irrespective of who owns the project. There is no clarity on why the consent requirement should not be uniform across projects.

    SIA was incorporated to examine the entire purpose of conducting acquisition and compensation in the form Rehabilitation and Resettlement. SIA, in addition, assisted in the prediction of likely expenditure and loss of a particular project so as to present a clear picture to decide the feasibility of the concerned project, be it social or economical.
    But now the power to decide the social –cultural impact of projects mostly will rely on the government. This erodes the holistic idea of inclusive governance.

    3.    Change in definition from private company to ‘private entity’  
    A private entity is defined as an entity other than a government entity, and could include a proprietorship, partnership, company, corporation, non-profit organization, or another entity under any other law. This will give entities other than government to decide on the compensation and rehabilitation of the aggrieved person.


    Conclusion and Way Ahead:

    In a country like India, wherein more than half of the population is dependent on land for their livelihood, a visionary land acquisition reform can be revolutionary. The stagnation in rural industrialization can be easily transformed via effective implementation of land laws. Thus, to achieve a neutral legislation on the concerned matter should be of foremost priority considering the benefit of greater number of citizens as a parameter.
    The success of latest legislation is largely dependent on the executing authorities and hence imposing the doctrine of transparent and accountable bureaucracy is another parameter to be considered.

    Establishment of a Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Authority to dispose disputes is a welcome change to deal with region –specific problems. The provision of the government to conduct a survey on wasteland is much needed resolution for keeping in account all the changes occurring due to acquisition of certain irrigated land and will also support government to formulate a better agricultural policy for the concerned area in the near future.
    Moreover, it should be reiterated that all growth is interlinked and interdependent and shared prosperity demands shared responsibility. Hence only a better government to public participation model can help to achieve the far-reaching motive of land acquisition lead development.  





     


     

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