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Millennium Post

Land acquisition norms relaxed for corporates

The Cabinet meeting, which was called in a hurry, has cleared emergency executive orders to greatly ease land-acquisition rules and auction minerals such as iron ore to kickstart hundreds of billions in stalled projects. The grapevine is that union rural development minister Birender Singh had some reservations over the amendments in land acquisition bill.

While briefing about cabinet decisions, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that while the interests of farmers had been protected, five categories of projects, including defence and national security and rural infrastructure and low-cost housing will be exempt from strict regulations cleared during erstwhile UPA-II regime.

Restrictions on buying land, under a law passed during the  UPA dispensation, were among barriers holding up projects worth almost Rs 20 lakh crore in key sectors such as rail, steel, mining and roads. Farmers are still to be compensated at four times the market rate for land in rural areas and twice the rate in urban areas, but the extent of consent needed for land acquisition has been trimmed considerably, especially for public-private partnerships.

“Procedural requirements have been  relaxed - like required consent of 70 per cent of affected landowners and a study on social impact - provisions like that will not apply; higher compensation will apply,” said Jaitley, referring to five types of projects including industrial corridors around major highways.

The existing Act vide Section 105 (read with Schedule IV) has kept 13 most frequently used Acts for land Act for the central government projects out of the purview. These acts are applicable for national highways, metro rail, atomic energy projects, electricity related other projects etc. Thus a large percentage of farmers and affected families were denied the compensation prescribed under the Act.“The present amendments bring all those exempted 13 Acts under the purview of this Act for the purpose of compensation as well as rehabilitation and resettlement. Therefore, the amendment benefits farmers and the affected families,” said Jaitley.

When the new amendments come into effect, the consent of four-fifths of all landholders concerned in a sale would be mandatory before any land is acquired for a private project. The ordinance will have to be cleared by the next parliamentary session which starts in February. The government has now in its seven months in office used the ordinance route six times due to a lack of majority in Rajya Sabha.  After the last parliament session ended in a legislative logjam on December 23, the government passed two orders to let foreign firms raise their stakes in insurance ventures and allow the commercial mining of coal. Land reform activists have strongly condemned the amendments. 

While talking to Millennium Post land reform activist Madhuresh said, “We strongly oppose this move and believe that this government is completely anti-poor and is only interested in pushing forward the corporate agenda. It is a Ambani-Adani Sarkaar – a company Sarkaar, which is out to sell the democratic rights of the people and traditions of law making in the Parliament in name of business.”
“The new act was framed after consulting all the stake holders and over a period of seven years after going through two Parliamentary Standing committees (2007 & 2009), both headed by senior BJP leaders – Kalyan Singh and Sumitra Mahajan,” the activist added.
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