Centre opts for ordinance route to amend land acquisition law

Centre opts for ordinance route to amend land acquisition law

The National Democratic Alliance government on Monday decided to change the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance’s pet land acquisition law, much to the relief of the industry.

The Cabinet approved changes to the right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act that removes the consent clause for acquiring land for five types of projects–industrial corridors, public-private partnership (PPP) initiatives, development of rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence. The Centre has decided to recommend to President Pranab Mukherjee to promulgate an ordinance.

“The changes in Land Act is aimed at ensuring faster processing without compromising on compensation or reclamation and rehabilitation (R&R) measures to farmers,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

The government move came in for sharp criticism from opposition parties and land right activists. “We condemn this. Such moves of the government will not go unchallenged during the Budget session,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said. Social activist Medha Patkar also dubbed the government decision “unethical”.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, said farmers’ interest’s would not be compromised. The government  decided to make changes to the law to enable payment of compensation to farmers and make them eligible for rehabilitation and resettlement when their land was acquired for  national highways, metro rail and atomic energy projects, among others.

“A large percentage of farmers and affected families were denied compensation and R&R measures prescribed under the Act,” Jaitley said. “the ordinance would set right this anomaly.”

The compensation would remain high as per the Act. Rehabilitation and resettlement would be followed, the procedure for acquiring land for these projects would be easier by omitting steps like social impact assessment, impact on food security, and consent of 80 per cent land owners, among other features of the act. Asked about the consent clause, Jaitley said, “If the land acquisition is for the five purposes, then the consent clause will be exempted.”

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