In a move aimed at faster completion of projects, the Narendra Modi cabinet Monday approved an ordinance to amend the Land Acquisition Act to remove "procedural difficulties" in acquiring land for national projects and to "further strengthen" provisions concerning "affected families".
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said after the cabinet meeting that there was need to strike a balance between interest of farmers and industrial growth.
He said while the compensation will remain high as per the act and rehabilitation and resettlement norms will be followed but the procedure for acquiring land for projects will be easier by removing steps like social impact assessment, impact on food security, and consent of 80 percent land owners.
Jaitley said that the process of prolonged procedure for land acquisition does not benefit the farmer and delay in construction also limits benefit to the society.
The changes will allow a fast track process for defence and defence production, rural infrastructure including electrification, housing for poor including affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects including projects taken up under Public Private Partnership mode where ownership of the land continues to be vested with the government, he said.
Jaitley said the act originally had several "oversight errors". "We have achieved a balance in the act...While the procedures have been relaxed for these five development activities, higher compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement remain same."
To a query that exemptions cover a vast area, he said: "How will we build infrastructure otherwise? We need land for it."
An official release said that states, ministries and stakeholders had been reporting difficulties in the act and several suggestions had come up. The land acquisition act was passed by the previous UPA government after considerable deliberation with Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi taking personal interest.
"Proposed amendmentsAmeet the twin objectives of farmer welfare; along with expeditiously meeting the strategic and developmental needs of the country," it said.
Section 105 of the Act has kept 13 most frequently used legislations used for land acquisition for central projects out of its purview, it added.
These are applicable for projects including national highways, metro rail, atomic energy projects and electricity.
"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 the farmers and the affected families," the release said.
According to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2013, the process for land acquisition involves a social impact assessment survey, preliminary notification stating the intent for acquisition, a declaration of acquisition, and compensation to be given by a certain time.
All acquisitions require rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected people while compensation to the owners will be four times the market value in rural areas and twice in urban areas.
Industry chamber CII welcomed the decision.