If the Centre heeds states' suggestions on the land acquisition Act, the law could be in for a major overhaul. The changes might include doing away with the requirement of consent of landowners or reducing it to 50 per cent from the current 80 per cent (for private projects) and 70 per cent (in case of public-private partnership projects).
These suggestions were made by state governments during a daylong meeting with Union Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari in June. The proposals have been sent to the Prime Minister's Office.
The land Act was passed by the United Progressive Alliance government. Congress-ruled states such as Haryana, too, have opposed the mandatory consent clause.
Industry, on its part, has opposed this provision on the grounds that this will delay the land acquisition process and hit economic growth.
Officials said after the new government came to power at the Centre, the rural development ministry was considering the suggestions of industry and states, adding it would take a final decision after discussing the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, once he returned from Brazil. They added states had also sought re-examination of the definition of "affected family" under the Act, as it was considered too elaborate. "The provision could be misused in the absence of clear criteria for the determination of affected families," said a note.
On the mandatory social impact assessment (SIA), officials said a consensus had emerged among major states that this clause should either be done away with or confined to large projects or public-private partnership ones, as it might delay land acquisition. Currently, the Act mandates an SIA is carried out for all acquisitions, irrespective of the size of the land. On another controversial aspect, the 'retrospective clause', officials said states had agreed this had to be modified to facilitate smooth purchase of land.
The 'retrospective clause' stipulates land acquisition proceedings lapse if compensation isn't paid or physical possession isn't taken within a mandatory timeframe.
Officials said states seemed to agree that compensation should be calculated from the date of preliminary notification of acquisition, not from the date of the SIA, as stipulated in the Act.
"State governments also wanted state-specific Acts dealing with land acquisition be included in the fourth schedule, to exempt them from the provisions of the new central law," an official said.
WHAT STATES WANT
- A comprehensive overhaul of the land acquisition Act
- Consent clause to be abolished or reduced to 50 per cent
- Abolition of mandatory social impact assessment
- Modification of retrospective clause
- Maintaining sanctity of state-specific Acts that deal with land acquisition