The government of India under PM Narendra Modi has decided to introduce an ordinance to make major changes in the existing Land Acquisition Act of 2013 passed by Congress government. It has increased apprehension that the poor, who often cultivate lands but are not the owner, may be left high and dry with no compensation. It has attracted criticism from opposition and Anna Hazare is currently holding a protest in Jantar Mantar against it.
Here’s a quick look what has changed and what has been kept unchanged:
The government has amended Section 10(A) of the Act to expand sectors where assessment and consent will not be required. For five sectors, the consent clause has been removed. So the government or private individuals/companies will no longer need mandatory 80% consent for land acquisition in those five sectors. According to Arun Jaitley, the mandatory “consent” clause and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) will not be applicable if the land is acquired for national security, defence, rural infrastructure including electrification, industrial corridors and housing for the poor including PPP where ownership of land continues to be vested with the government.
Whether the land is fertile or not will also not be taken into consideration while acquiring it for these five specific sectors. Thus even if the land is extremely fertile like it was the case in Singur, it can be acquired if it fits the criterion of these five sectors, no question asked.
#1 Compensation remains the same
The compensation package remains the same. It is four times the market price for rural and and two times for urban land. The government despite pressure from various groups has decided to keep the package intact.
#2 Why did the government passed the ordinance now?
The official reason given by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is that under Section 105 of the Land Acquisition Act, a clarity was needed on what provisions apply to the aforesaid 13 legislations and it had to be done before January 1, 2015.
The political reason is that the government is looking to give a message to investors that they’re trying their best to free up procedural bottlenecks which are almost a hallmark of any infrastructure investment in India. The government is looking to boost up manufacturing to make Modi’s ambitious Make in India project a reality and this is a big bold step towards it but not to mention is harsh for landlords and people depending on the land.
#3 Congress’s opposition
Congress has strongly opposed the ordinance saying anybody who is pro-farmer should raise their voice against it. But according to an Indian Express report, Haryana and Kerala wanted to remove the consent clause for PPP or bring it upto 50%. States like Assam, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh felt that the definition of affected family is too broad.
On social impact assessment, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and Manipur all demanded that the process be restricted to only large projects.
Other opposition parties like JD(U), Left and AAP have strongly expressed their reservation about the ordinance. So it will be an uphill task for government to pass it in Rajya Sabha where the government is in hopeless minority without Congress’s help at least.
#4 Possibilities for amendment of ordinance?
Thus, in a way, the government went through a broad consensus by making the changes. Now it is to be seen if they can get it passed in the parliament eventually and if the revised ordinance will indeed serve the purpose of bringing fresh investment and boost the manufacturing sector without trampling on the rights of the poor.