Land Acquisition – Issues

In India under the Schedule VII, land is a state subject while land acquisition is a concurrent subject. This creates friction in federal nature of our polity as the state sensitivities are sometimes not realized by Union’s acquisitions.
Land Acquisition Laws by State
The controversies regarding the Land Acquisition Bill have brought the rural development to a standstill which led the states to appeal to the center to frame their own laws rather than waiting for the consensus endlessly. There is a considerable merit in the argument.
EXPERIENCE: Prior to the enactment of 2013 law, the land acquisition was done by the states according to their own laws rather than the 1894 colonial law. Thus, states are more experienced to handle these land acquisition issues.
POPULAR NATURE OF LAW: According to the 2013 law which is applicable to entire India , SIA’s done could be rejected by the expert group just by providing a reason in writing. Some states had even more stringent laws than this ‘2013 law’ and offered even more compensation to the farmers, thus being more farmer friendly.
COOPERATIVE FEDERALISM: The Centre should not enforce its will on states on a sensitive issues like land as it will serve as a big blow to cooperative federalism. Rather than dominance of Centre over land issue, the states which want to amend their laws should be given an opportunity to do so. These states will experience a higher economic growth and creation of more employment opportunities. Seeing this, other states will soon follow these progressive states rather than being forced to do so which will go against the spirit of cooperative federalism.
DIVERSITY: Land is basically a state subject. It should be governed by state-specific legislations which are framed keeping in mind the situation of the state. Different states are at different levels of development and have their own priorities. For example, states like Punjab and Haryana which have a large irrigated land fear of not being able to develop because of the current law. Other states might have a different opinion.
So, it better to allow the states to acquire the land themselves rather than depending on the centre.
Amendment to LARR Act 2013
LARR Act of 2013 was basically passed to overcome the old and archaic rules imposed by the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. The original act had the provision for a minimum of consent of 80% of the people and conduction of SIA, after which the process of acquisition was to commence.
But the amendments proposed by the incumbent govt., seek to remove these provisions, so as to make way for faster development, which only means building more infrastructure, with little space for human resource development.
Such methods to accelerate growth can be detrimental in the long run, as they do not take the will of the people in concern. Although the compensation provided has not changed, money is not everything when it comes to the emotional and spiritual attachment of locals with the land.
Such an act can be termed as unconstitutional, as it curtails the freedom of the people to express their will. Also, it makes no exception for the land, which may have religious importance for the locals.
On the other hand, when we look at the time needed to clear a project after following all such procedures, it turns out to be around 6-7 years, to start a project. Such a long time frame is certainly not favorable to the capitalists (national and international), who may shy away from investment in such projects in the future.
This will have a disastrous effect on the economy, as employment sector can be affected on a large scale. Also, due to the increasing urbanization, many farmers are themselves willing to sell their lands and settle in the city. Such long procedures can be hectic for them too, as the act makes no exception to consider such cases.
The solution here, can be to remove the red tape phenomenon, where a single case takes years to be cleared by a dept. The land acquisitions can be studied by a case to case basis and the SIA can be skipped where the land has no agricultural or intellectual value.
Such measures can certainly help both the land owners and the industrialists, with which the economic sector will avoid a large setback.
Development & Land Acquisition
For the last decade or two, land acquisition has been the biggest irritant for any developmental or industrial projects. The intensity of problem is reflected from following:
  • Arcerol Mittal and POSCO withdrew their multibillion dollar steel project last year
  • Resistance by local people and tribal following government suppression has prevented land acquisition like Niyamgiri hills of Odisha
  • About 1300 PPP projects worth 7 lakh crore is pending and land is one of the reason for this
In some places environmental concerns raised by environmentalists and civil society has dissuaded people from giving away their land. Although there are other issues like delay in clearances, economic climate, high interest rate and NPA condition of banks which is preventing players especially private ones to go ahead with investment.
But the issue with land is a problem of government’s own making, because:
  1. Until recently land were taken forcefully with paltry or no compensation
  2. No consent of broad consultation before taking land
  3. No participation in decision making in rehabilitation plan or future development on their land and fair benefit sharing
  4. Government sitting on huge amount of unused barren land, fallow land and government land but not effectively using them.
Although land acquisition act of 2013 took adequate care of “affected people”, the resulting high cost and delay in acquisition send a negative signal to industry. Some innovative ways likeland bank, efficient use of barren and government land, leasing out land instead of selling them would be the way forward without compromising the interest of affected people.
Union govt. proposal to amend the existing land acquisition bill with amendments for reviving investments in infrastructure and industry has gathered controversies. Govt. is of the opinion that due to improper acquisition procedure, many public and private project have been either stalled or not started at all.
Though their claim is alright keeping in mind the non-willingness of foreign player to invest in India due to flawed procedure. These amendments may somehow increase the foreign investment and growth of world class infrastructure in India. But if we go deeper into this issue it comes out to be the over-exuberance and a credit bubble as the primary reasons rather than lack of regulatory clearances for stalled projects in the private sector. Though it does occur for the govt. projects. A close analysis of the list of stalled projects provided by the ministry reinforces the Economic Survey conclusion that projects are stalled mainly because of unfavorable demand conditions and loss of promoter interest.
Another point of criticism is the use of theLand Acquisition Act for securing land for public and private projects which has diverted from its public projects priorities to private project like hotels & malls. The land acquired for SEZs is an example of this misuse of the Land Acquisition Act. large scale land acquisitions alters the pattern of livelihood of many so need is that acquirer should accepts the responsibility for financing resettlement and rehabilitation of all affected persons. Moreover, rather than separate negotiations with individual landowners a collective negotiation framework should be provided by a law analogous to the laws for collective bargaining in labour relations.
Tribals & Land Acquisition
Land acquisition in tribal areas in the name of development is alleged to have taken away the very life spirit of tribals. Traditionally tribals were isolated from mainstream society, residing mostly in forests. Their main source of livelihood has been forest products.
Post-independence need for development of heavy industries required exploitation of mines and minerals, forest and forest products, setting up large hydroelectric projects which mostly fall in tribal area.
In the name of national development their land and rights over forest were taken in British times continued in Post-Independence India also. They were driven off their traditional land.
Private rights over forest land has been recognized which destroyed their community based social system .They have been denied their share in minerals and forest products and profits have been mostly taken big corporations.
Also ,many projects have been granted without much of EIA and SIA which has put tribals at margin.
In the process of interaction with mainstream society they have been marginalized and living under utter poverty and malnutrition. Corruption and government apathy have further aggravated the situation.
Also tribal areas have seen continued in-migration of outsiders ,due to which the whole demography of some areas like Tripura has changed within a decade.
Due their marginalization many tribals have resorted to violence and joined Naxalite groups. Last decade has seen formation of tribal specific states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
Having realized their problems government has taken following steps to protect their interests:
  1. Forest Rights Act, 2006: It recognises customary rights of tribals over forest land permits them to use forest products. It also extends community based decision making system in the form of Gram Sabha which will collectively take decision regarding Land Acquisition.
  2. PESA, 1995: It extends Panchayati Raj system in tribal areas and grants them rights to manage their own affairs without much government intervention.
  3. Land Acquisition Act 2013 provides enough safeguards.
  4. Proper Social Impact Assessment, Environmental Impact Assessment is necessary before any developmental activity in tribal areas. Before any major infrastructure project in tribal land proper compensation and rehabilitation is to be provided to the affected ones.
  5. Tribal welfare programs have been included in CSR activities.
  6. Dedicated Tribal Welfare ministries have been made at Center and in various states to deal with their problems.
  7. MNREGA has been effectively implemented in tribal areas with increased number working days.
  8. Programs like marketing of tribal tradition products have been taken in association e-retail companies like Flipkart.
Some of the changes that the amendments proposed to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013 (LARR Act), if passed, would be patently unconstitutional. Critically comment. (200 Words)
It is said that most industrial projects in India, which are either stalled or cancelled, is due to land acquisition problem in India. Do you agree with this assessment? Critically examine. (200 Words)
When we take land away from tribals, we take their life spirit. Discuss this statement in the light of forceful land acquisition in tribal areas since independence. Highlight the special provisions made for STs in the recent land acquisition act to protect their interests. (200 Words)
There is a general perception that due to land acquisition problems many private and public projects are either stalled or not started at all. Critically examine the validity of this perception. (200 Words)
It is argued that a state-centric strategy on land acquisition will permit a more nuanced approach and It would also promote competitive federalism. Critically discuss how. (200 Words)

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