Intro: While the opposition is branding changes in the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill as ‘anti-farmer’, the Modi government claims that the new amendments will benefit farmers.
In the 2015 pre-Budget session of the Parliament on February 24, the Narendra Modi government introduced the controversial Land Acquisition Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha amid vociferous protest by almost all opposition parties.
Several controversies have arisen after the Modi government came up with an ordinance amending few clauses of the existing act of land acquisition on 29th December, 2014 to facilitate and ease the process of land acquisition to pace up the development projects.
Modi’s ‘Mann ki Baat’ on Land Acquisition Bill
In view of the said there is a need to understand how the new amendments aim at the welfare of farmers.
Till 1st January 2014 all acquisitions made by the government were in line with the policy made by the British ruled government under Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Infact, from time to time the governments amended the law as per their requirements and have taken care of the people affected by the acquisitions by and large on many grounds.
Congress-led UPA government enacted a law on land acquisition, The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 which was passed by the Parliament in 2013 to repeal the Act of 1894.
The current BJP-led NDA government came into power with a clear agenda of development, employment generation & poverty elimination. To realise the potential of the huge demographic dividend of our nation, we need to walk in letter and spirit an exponential trajectory of growth in all aspects and facets. And to make India self reliant, we need to go back to the concepts of economics where it is clearly stated that to make any country economically stable we need to first focus on our manufacturing sector, industrial growth and development, and then on service sector to be self sufficient. And in view of making our ‘Bharat Mata’ stronger and capable to feed every child, Modi government came up with an ordinance amending few clauses of the existing act of land acquisition on 29th December, 2014 to facilitate and ease the process of land acquisition to pace up the development projects.
The opposition by political parties therefore seems more to disrupt the current government from functioning as is evident from the fact that when the government asked them to come up with the suggestions and flaws (if any) in the ordinance, they have no suggestion, but then they just want to continue opposing for the sake of opposing in the name of farmers.
It is time Indians carefully and cautiously think and analyse why foreign countries and their funded NGOs are so concerned about Indian farmers and environment when most of the pollution in the global environment was and is excreted by these big industrial giants. It is very much clear from their intention that they don’t want see us growing and become self-dependent and maintain their status of being super power.
The Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development which is responsible for administering the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act reported that some provisions of the Act are making the implementation of the Act difficult. Accordingly, a Conference of State Revenue Ministers was organised on 27th June, 2014 within a month after coming into power. Further, consultations with secretaries and officers of concerned ministries administering the Acts were held and based on such discussions and deliberation it was felt necessary to bring changes in the Act, while safeguarding the interest of the farmers and affected families in cases of land acquisition. In addition, procedural difficulties in the acquisition of lands required for important national projects required to be mitigated.
In order to ease the process of land acquisition for strategic and development activities such as national security or defence including preparation for defence and defence production; rural infrastructure including electrification; affordable housing and housing for poor; industrial corridors; infrastructure and social infrastructure projects including projects under public private partnership where the ownership of the land continues to vest with the Government, the Bill is amended to empower the appropriate government to take steps for exemption from “Social Impact Assessment” and “Special Provisions for Safeguarding Food Security” and the provisions of the “Consent” as well.
To ensure better health and educational facilities in the country, amendments were made to include private hospitals and private educational institutions in the definition of ‘public purpose’.
At present, the provisions of the RFCTLARR Act, 2013, extend to ‘private company’. However, as per Companies Act, 2013, a ‘Private company’ means a company having a minimum paid-up share capital of one lakh rupees or such higher paid-up share capital, thereby restricting the provisions of the Act to such companies only and excluding other form of companies like proprietorship, partnership, corporation, non profit organisation, etc. Therefore, in place of the term ‘private company’, the term ‘private entity’ has been substituted to include all non-governmental entities.
Further, as the RFCTLARR Act, 2013 was drafted prior to the passage of the Companies Act, 2013; the Act still refers to the Companies Act, 1956 for the definition of ‘Company’ which is now amended to be substituted by the Companies Act, 2013.
In cases where land acquisition process under Land Acquisition Act, 1894 has been initiated and the Award passed, if either the possession of the land was not taken or compensation not paid, there is a provision of lapsing of such proceedings after five years of passing of Award. The period during which the proceedings for acquisition of the land were held up on account of any stay or injunction issued by any court, or the period specified in the award of a Tribunal for taking possession, or such period where possession has been taken but the compensation is lying deposited in a Court, or in any account maintained for this purpose, shall be excluded for the purpose of calculation of five years period.
The Section dealing with offences by government departments is now modified to bring it in line with existing provisions in other laws. When an offence under this Act is committed by any official of the Government, action would be taken as per Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The procedure of compensation to the farmers in case of acquisition is still maintained as it was in the existing law; that is four times of the prevailing market rate.
The power to acquire any land which is fertile in nature is vested with state governments.
Consensual and social impact assessment procedure has been eased only in cases of acquisitions made for defence establishments taking national security and secrecy into cognizance, and also for the rural electrification projects and affordable housing for poor families. The relaxations are taken up urgently to implement these projects which are of utmost importance.
Most of the farmers have a small fragment of land which gets divided among the family members as the family tree expands. Today, the children of farmers are getting educated and they need a job too. Without setting up new industries how will they get new jobs? To cater to the rise in unemployment in the country, the current government has setup skill development centres at every railway station (a joint venture of skill development ministry and Railway ministry) to make the youth skilled and ready to take up a job which require skilled manpower. To provide them jobs, we will need more industries and opportunities to be established.
Are the farmers not willing to make their children educated? Or will they help these political parties & foreign funded NGOs in trying their level best to stop us from getting a better education and employment.
Most of the foreign ventures are lying pending just because of the policy paralysis where land acquisition is a major hurdle, and to solve these issues the current government came up with a new mission called ‘Make in India’ to revitalise the economy of India and primarily make it an industrial and manufacturing hub with the help of private players as well as FDI which in view of our PM should be called as ‘First Develop India’. And when we talk about industrialisation, we need power to run the industries as well to provide round the clock electricity to every household in every village and cities; we need land to setup new power plants as well as to set up new transmission lines to establish a modern setup of nationwide grid and an efficient circulation mechanism.
In this backdrop, the initiatives of the government should be taken in a positive and optimistic way as it is committed to all that was promised during the elections. Let’s not forget that 80 per cent of the jobs are generated by the private corporate companies only, so we should stop looking at all industrial houses with a negative view.
Points amended in the RFCTLARR Act, 2013 by the Ordinance, 2015:
- In the RFCTLARR Act, 2013, in the meaning of ‘public purpose’, private hotels, private hospitals & private educational institutions were delisted. The ordinance seeks to amend this clause by adding private educational institutions and private hospitals in the list of ‘public purpose’ which the government deemed fit and necessary to facilitate good health facilities as well as education to all.
- No social impact assessment and consent of 80% land owners will be required for the acquisitions made for any project related to defence, defence production, rural electrification, affordable housing for poor, industrial corridors and social infrastructure projects where the ownership of the land will remain with the government.
- As per the law made by UPA earlier, there was a clause where if the land acquired is unused for the period of five years it needs to be returned back. But as per the reports most of the land acquired is still lying unused either in absence of clearances of other ministries to set-up the project or because the acquisition process came under some litigation. Ordinance tries to fix this issue by not counting the period in which the court proceeding were on.
- Instead of the deadline of five years, setting up period of the concerned project or five years whichever is later should be submerged in the Act.
- To save the time from unnecessary litigation and court cases, government tried to enact this law from 1st January, 2015.
- There was a clause that every notification made on behalf of this act needs to be approved by both the houses which is deemed unnecessary waste of time has been omitted.
- In the earlier act, government was allowed to make changes in the law in case of any difficulty but only upto 2 years from the date of enactment which is about to end on 1st January, 2016. So the ordinance amended it to the period of five years.
If the opposition is really worried about the farmers, they should come up with valid points as the government and also the PM on several occasions has promised discussion and grievance redressal on any point which appears unconstitutional. Hence, let’s have a positive mindset while looking at the functioning of the government. If we have voted and shown trust in them by giving a clear majority (282+) and put them into power for five years, we should give them a fair chance to work hard for the betterment of the people and the nation.
Priyang Pandey (The writer is a researcher who writes on governance and development related issues)