Many projects in the country may be languishing because of land acquisition problems but the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation (DFCC) has over the past three years acquired 70 per cent of the 10,000 hectares it requires to construct exclusive railway lines for goods traffic. The area acquired is more than half as large as the 18,500-hectare Kolkata metropolitan city.
Though a more liberal compensation regime has helped the Indian Railways-owned company, the speed has been spurred by the fact that land acquisition is one of the preconditions for funds from the World Bank and JICA, the lending agencies for DFCC. The project execution was expected to pick up steam after the slow progress initially, said a railway official.
The Ministry of Railways is expected to spend Rs 7,500 crore on 100 per cent land acquisition for the Rs 78,000-crore project. DFCC has acquired 85 per cent of the land required for phase-1 of the eastern corridor (Khurja-Kanpur, requiring 1,320 hectares) and the western corridor (Rewari-Vadodara, requiring 3,607 hectares). Funds for both these sections have been tied up by the World Bank and JICA, respectively.
After the Cabinet approval for the DFCC project in 2008, the physical process of acquiring land started in 2009. DFCC can go for pre-qualification and technical and financial bids for lump sum contracts of the respective section only after tying up for funds. So, 70 per cent is an important milestone though a problem in acquiring even a small stretch of land can hold up the whole process for years. “The usefulness of land acquisition is determined by whether it is linear and contiguous,” said Parvesh Minocha, group managing director, Feedback Infrastructure Services. Besides, the viability of freight corridors would depend on the coming up of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). “It is important the land acquisition for DMIC is close to the freight corridor’s, so that the DMIC facility is ready simultaneously,” he added.
For the Dankuni-Sonnagar section of the eastern corridor, which has to be built on a public-private-partnership (PPP) basis, land acquisition has started this year. Though the PPP model has not been finalised, DFCC has started land acquisition in order to avoid delays.
What has come in handy is a special dispensation. According to R K Gupta, managing director of DFCC, “We acquired 3,000 hectares only last year. The process has been expedited because we are acquiring land under the Railways (Amendment) Act, 2008.”
DFCC, being a special railway project, can do land acquisition under the land acquisition amendment, 2008, rather than under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. In the RAA (Railway Amendment Act) 2008, the entire land acquisition can be done by an officer nominated by DFCC, who is a competent authority to do the liasoning work with the state authorities. “The RAA 2008 has also been connected with the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2007, so our compensation matrix is different from what it used to be in 1894. It is much more liberal and faster, so the land losers are not feeling the pinch,” he added.
Besides, the requirement of linear land rather than concentric acquisition of land has also helped. Railways require strips of land. More so, the land acquired was for a public rather than private purpose, said Gupta.
Eighty per cent of the alignment of the western and eastern corridors is parallel to the already existing railway track. For the 20 per cent detour, the land requirement is 10,000 hectares. From June 2010 to May 2011, the alignment of 300 km was reconsidered and 80-90 per cent of this stretch was brought parallel to the existing railway track. That brought down the detour from around 30 per cent to 20 per cent of the alignment.