In its Assembly session that began on Wednesday, the Rajasthan government is planning to push some industry-friendly amendments to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition (Rehabilitation and Resettlement) Act, 2013.
If it is able to amend the law in the current session, Rajasthan will become the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled state to change the central Act, after the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre recently succumbed to opposition pressure and allowed its land ordinance to lapse.
The state government had tried to amend the central Act last year, too. But BJP’s own legislators had stonewalled the Rajasthan Land Acquisition Bill, 2014. This time, however, the state hopes to be able to convince its legislators. The fresh attempt comes after Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje recently announced at a NITI Aayog meeting of chief ministers, chaired by the prime minister, that her government would soon enact its own land law.
After opposition from some party legislators, the Assembly had sent the Bill to a House select committee, which is yet to give its report. The Rajasthan government is likely to incorporate the recommendations of the committee.
“We went slowly on the (earlier) Bill as the Centre brought an ordinance. Now that the central ordinance has lapsed, our Bill assumes relevance again. I assume the select committee that had earlier concluded its report and made certain recommendations will have to hold another sitting, because the context has changed,” Rajasthan Chief Secretary C S Rajan told Business Standard.
The Bill, which the state government had presented in the House last year, had tried to address certain concerns around the consent-clause and social-impact-assessment (SIA) provisions in the 2013 Act. “We will provide the highest compensation under the central law. We have said in our Bill that we will provide compensation for rehabilitation, too. For many projects, consent might not be necessary. For instance, if an existing road has to be widened for increased traffic, where is the time or energy to seek consent or do SIA and wait for two years?”
The draft of the state Bill advocates higher compensation for land losers and doing away with the need for SIA. Besides, it suggests waiving the consent clause in the case of core infrastructure projects like those for roads, pipelines, railways, communications, ports, airports and bridges.
At a time when the state government is going big on public-private partnership (PPP) projects in the health, education, solar power, power and transport sectors, Rajasthan is also planning to lower the consent norm from 80 per cent to 60 per cent for PPP projects.