The Hindu, 11 jan 2015, Kolkata: The recent ordinance amending the Land Acquisition Act has exempted several categories of projects from the requirements of owners’ consent and social impact assessment before acquiring land.
Officials, however, say norms are yet to be worked out to ensure that only the bare minimum of the land required is acquired.
The Act excluded private hospitals, educational institutions and hotels from the category of infrastructure projects. Under the ordinance, public-private projects in the social and commercial infrastructure category will include private hospitals and educational institutions. All these projects will now be exempt from the social impact assessment to scrutinise the social costs and benefits of projects. The assessment will have to see if the projects serve a public purpose and that the land being acquired is of the bare minimum and estimate the number of affected families.
“These could vary based on the agency monitoring a project. For example, if land is being acquired for a hospital, the Medical Council of India’s norms on the requirement of a hospital may apply, or if it is a housing project, for instance in Delhi under the Delhi Development Authority, then those may apply,” said a senior official of the Ministry of Rural Development.
Under the March 27, 2012 notification on infrastructure issued by the Department of Economic Affairs, the category of “social and commercial infrastructure” includes “three-star or higher category classified hotels located outside cities with a population of over 10 lakh” and infrastructure for special economic zones and industrial parks. Officials said that at present, there were no rules for land acquisition under these categories.
Among the other key changes, the ordinance amended Section 101 of the Act which mandated that when land acquired remained unutilised for five years, it shall be returned to the owner or the land bank of the government concerned. For the five-year period, the ordinance substitutes “a period specified for setting up any project or five years, whichever is later.” Which agencies will specify the time period for different categories of projects, or decide whether it could be extended or not, is to be decided.
Besides infrastructure and social infrastructure, industrial corridors, defence, rural infrastructure and affordable housing are in the exempt category. “On the day it issued the ordinance, the government claimed credit for bringing compensation under the 13 exempt Acts under the LARR Act on a par with the 2013 Act. But, in fact, it has expanded the list of exemptions by creating special categories,” said Nikhil Dey of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan.