Land acquisition for public projects comes to a halt

Land acquisition for public projects comes to a halt

In the absence of rules to acquire land for public projects, the progress of many mega projects of various departments has come to a standstill in Karnataka.

Whether it is the Information Technology Investment Regions near Devanahalli, or the Upper Bhadra project, or the Yettinahole project, there is no progress when it comes to acquiring fresh land from January this year.

In tune with the Congress party’s decision, the Siddaramaiah government has decided not to implement the land acquisition ordinance promulgated by the NDA government on December 31, 2014.

During his recent visit to Bengaluru, former union minister Jairam Ramesh said the Congress government in Karnataka would continue with the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, of the Centre.

But the fact remains that there are no rules in the State to implement the 2013 Act. The State government had decided to notify the rules it had framed to implement on January 1, 2015. But on December 31, 2014, the Centre promulgated the land acquisition-related ordinance. So the ordinance became applicable to all states.

Not mandatory
As per the ordinance, the social impact assessment (SIA) and consent are not required for a certain category of projects which include irrigation and infrastructure works. But the policy of “no mandatory holding of SIA and taking consent from land givers to public projects” is not acceptable to the Congress.

The states have an option to either conduct SIA and take consent, or do the opposite. Since the Congress is vehemently opposing the ordinance, it is not allowing the states ruled by it to accept the provisions under the ordinance, even partially.

Officials in the Revenue, PWD, IT, Industries, Housing, Water Resources, among others, admit that no fresh land acquisition had taken place in the last few months as the Siddaramaiah government had not given permission to acquire land.

The vacuum is because of not notifying the rules in 2013 by the State, sources said.
Sources said compensation for landlosers under the Upper Krishna Project III will be
provided as per the revised norms. But the disbursal is yet to begin.

For irrigation projects, though SIA is exempted, environmental clearance (EA) is mandatory.

In the case of the Yettinahole project, 260 ha of land is required for Phase I of the project and for Phase II project, 4,500 ha of land is required. The process of acquiring land for Phase I had begun. Land had to be acquired in 23 villages for the same.

Acquiring government land was not posing problems and already an amount of Rs 1,200 crore had been spent, of the total Rs 3,700 crore that was budgeted.

However,acquisition of public land has been stopped.

Clarification awaited
In the case of the Upper Bhadra project, of the total 1,300 acres of land required for the project, 500-odd acres have been acquired under the old rules.

The Law department’s clarification is awaited upon, for acquiring further land.

Official sources said that for the crucial ITIR project near the international airport, a preliminary notification had been issued for acquiring 2,072 acres of land in 2010.

Since there is lack of clarity on the land acquisition rules, the land has not been notified. Land-related documents from farmers have to be verified for notifying land for the ITIR project. There are no signs of progress in this regard, too, sources added.

Sources in the Revenue and Law departments said the State Cabinet is undecided on the land acquisition policy. Many ministers in the Siddaramaiah Cabinet are seeing merits in the ordinance but they can’t go against the party’s stand.

However, former revenue secretary S M Jaamdar said nothing can stop the State from implementing the SIA and seeking consent.

“The ordinance does not say that consent provision and SIA have been cancelled. It only says that the states have been empowered to waive these provisions. Land could be acquired as per the old law. The State is in a helpless position for political reasons and not legal reasons,” he argued.

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