The Times Of India, April 23 2014, New Delhi: There is a growing clamour against the provisions of a new land acquisition law with several infrastructure sectors – from road, to railway and power – fearing a three-fold jump in acquisition cost due to the new legislation.
While the other ministries are just fretting over the issue, the road transport and highways ministry has asked government to increase Budgetary allocation for land acquisition. In a letter to the Cabinet secretariat, the ministry has also suggested that the government can seek views from other ministries such as heavy industries and power on how to deal with this issue.
An internal assessment by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which is responsible for major land acquisition for road projects, shows that the under the new law, compensation for land is likely to increase four-fold in rural areas. In urban areas, it is likely to be double from the current level.
Apart from the highways ministry, the department of industrial policy and promotion has already raised the red flag with secretary Amitabh Kant going public against the new law. “Land acquisition for roads, ports and similar other economic activities has not been happening ever since the new Land Acquisition Act came into being,” he said,
“A number of road and port projects are stuck up on account of the Act and there is an urgent need to fast-track road and port projects, which can be possible when necessary amendments are made to it,” Kant had said at an industry gathering.
So far, it was only the industry which was raising concerns over the law, which had been dismissed by the government.
BJP, which had supported the land acquisition Bill, has remained ambiguous on its position. “I seriously think that in the end the additional amount paid to farmers on enhanced compensation will be less than the money saved by timely implementation of projects,” the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi said in an interview.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act is aimed at ensuring that owners get fair compensation for land taken away from them for various projects.
“We are exempted to implement the law till January 2015. But, by the next year we will revise our norms and it will be tough to meet financial requirements unless we have additional budgetary allocation,” said a road ministry source. On an average, NHAI acquires around 6,000-7,000 hectares of land annually and releases about Rs 7,000-Rs 8,000 crore.
Sources said for highway projects the agencies don’t need to conduct social impact assessment since land acquisition in such cases are linear in nature and does not displace a village or a community. But, it has to pay certain amount prescribed in the law for resettlement and rehabilitation of the affected people.