The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Re-settlement Act, 2013 came into operation on January 1, 2014. This law replaced the colonial
An Environment Impact Assessment was a condition precedent for setting the deprivatory law into motion. Not a year has elapsed. The normal recourse to the system of introducing a Bill in the Parliament, referring the same to a Committee for appraisal and finally, a considered decision-making through debate and consultation was avoided through the issue of an Ordinance on January 1, 2014.
The projects, which have been taken out of the fair procedure, include those relating to national security and defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and housing for the poor, besides industrial corridors and infrastructure and social infrastructure projects. In all these cases, the vital element of making acquisition a consultative and participatory process has been substituted by unilateral decision of the bureaucratic system. The excuse put forth is that there were perceived difficulties of delay through the hitherto prescribed democratic process. These hurried changes, without following the available parliamentary procedure, have obviously been conditioned by the dominant motivation of favouring the corporate world.
Any one of these activities, including the infrastructure through the PPP mode, would all involve the corporate houses. Coming to defence and national security, we have a right in Odisha’s Balasore district, a glaring instance, where people were deprived under the then prevalent “emergency clause” and were divested of their land for what was stated to be for a road project for a defence related establishment.
Years have turned into decades, but the road project is yet to come into existence and observe the professed purpose. Such instances have been frowned upon by the Supreme Court of India and had tuned illegal, but will now get the secured cloak of the amended law. Doing away with Environment Impact Assessment is bound to vitally affect the agricultural sector (including three-crop areas) and ayacuts of irrigation projects.
This in turn would lead to reduced agricultural produce and thereby adversely affect food security. This would also not be in the interest of the society in holistic terms. The year ended with a spate of Ordinances. The President of India summoned three Ministers ascertaining the urgency for the promulgation of the L.A. Ordinance. But finally, the democratic process was avoided to irrationally tinker with an Act, which had received near-unanimous acclaim and support. This demonstrated that the arithmetic of democracy can be manipulated by vested interests. The reasons are too apparent to be further discerned. Vagaries and ironies of the tyranny of majority have surfaced too early in the day.
In September 2013, after two all-party meetings, 14 hours of debate in both the Houses, acceptance of 26 of the 28 recommendations of the standing committee, which was headed by
Journalist Subash Panda says, “I belong to a well educated farmer family. Narendra Modi government’s move of bringing the ordinance to help ‘vested interests’ and has pointed out that the Land Acquisition bill was finalised by a Parliamentary Committee headed by BJP leader Sumitra Mahajan, now the Speaker of present Lok Sabha. What is objectionable is both the Ordinance itself, the Ordinance route which is anti-democratic and, secondly the substance of the Ordinance. The new Oridnance, intellectual farmers believe, will pave the way for forcible land acquisition, excess land acquisition, diversion of land for purposes other than it was acquired and acquisition of multi-cropped land.”
“Narendra Modi government says it brought 13 Acts into the purview of the new Act. It is making a virtue out of a necessity because in the Act that was passed in September 2013, these 13 Acts, the R and R (Relief and Rehabilitation) and Compensation had to be brought on par with new norms within one year and that is what this government has done. They have not done any favors to farmers or to land owners.
The then Forest and Environment and Rural Development minister
Jairam told, “Now government has power, the principle of eminent domain which was the foundational principle of 1894 Act returns. They are using words like social infrastructure under which anything and everything can go. For instance, private hospitals and private schools. Important as they are, we said it does not come under public purpose. To my mind the concept of consent which is central to the new Act has been diluted substantially.”
On the categories which were exempted from the consent clause in the Act legislated by the UPA government, he clarifies, it was a misunderstanding. You had to have the consent except for urgency clause which was for defence and natural calamities. Consent was absolutely essential because I believe that governments have been worst culprits in land acquisition. Irrespective of political parties, irrespective of political complexion have acquired land forcibly. They have acquired excess land, they have acquired land which has been not been used for the purpose for which it was acquired, the land has been acquired below market rates of compensation and without relief and rehabilitation having been done. Parliament is the supreme law-making authority. This is a concurrent subject. We legislated on it being on the
Land is required for faster industrialization and urbanization. People who want the land can go and buy but why do you want to use the principle of eminent domain and the power of the government to acquire the land forcibly? My objection is to the ‘forcible’,” asked by Jairam Ramesh .
Sudhir Patanik the editor of Samadrusti says, “I am not at all shocked to see the presidential Ordinance to kill the Land Acquisition and Resettlement Act of 2013 just three days after the Parliament ended its session. This Act was the most progressive one in post independence India along with the Forest Rights Act of 2006. Though both the Acts have not helped in stopping all corporate projects but a campaign had been unleashed during the UPA 2 by accusing the Acts as the main hurdles on the path of FDI. Perhaps, it has now become abundantly clear why corporate forces put their entire energy behind Modi during 2014 elections. It is time for Modi ji to pay back things they wanted form him. But what surprises me is the complicity of main opposition parties in such a crime against the common men in India. I would rather say that it will be foolish on his part to underestimate peoples’ power despite trying his tricks to dilute the issue by making non issues such as PK as a major issue through the Sangha Pariva brigade.”
The proposed ordinance to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 is desperate attempts to by-pass the existing environmental laws and procedures, which the successive governments have thought as an obstacle to development projects. This is a classic example where, irrespective of the party that rules the county, it does not learn from the mistakes of the past and continues to beat the wrong bush.
No doubt land acquisition has been a problem area in the past. And let us be assured that it will continue to be so in the future as well whether or not this regressive legislation is in place. And why people have opposed land acquisition? Is it not because of the trust deficit of the government (irrespective of which party is in power) among the people? Starting from
Have not the land acquisition been delayed because government after government have adopted the principle of ‘tiring out the opposition’ rather than taking on the opposition to land acquisition up front? Again it is not the “opposition to land acquisition by the land owners” an alibi of the bureaucracy to hide the delay due to its own follies and ploy to earn extra buck through delaying the process?
Robbing the land owners of their say on land acquisition is a regressive step and could well prove to be a political hara-kiri for the BJP. What was the slogan that BJP used to come to power ‘Sabka Sath,Sabka Vikas’? In the context of this slogan where do the land owners who are going to be displaced forcibly stand? Neither the government is with them nor they are going to have a share in the development pie.
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