The Central government is considering an amendment to the Land Acquisition Act to stop state government’s from acquiring land for private projects in the country’s 90 districts worst hit by Naxal violence.
Violent backlashes in Singur, Nandigram and Lal Garh areas of West Bengal since 2007 over land acquisition by the state government for private sector projects apparently led to the change in government thinking.
Earlier, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose Trinamool Congress spearheaded the anti-land acquisition movements in West Bengal and is a constituent of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, made a similar demand.
An expert group, headed by Chief Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar, made it clear that land in the Naxal-affected areas could be acquired by the government only for public welfare and national security.
“The proposals need to be further revised to minimise displacement of people and secure the rights of the displaced,” the group said in its report.
The group said the government should not acquire land even for cooperatives and registered societies, besides corporate entities. Land could be acquired only for national security and public welfare projects implemented by the government.
Following the group’s recommendations, six state governments — hit by Naxal violence — submitted proposals worth Rs 16,252 crore (Rs 162.5 billion) for the Centre’s approval.
Planning Commission secretary Sudha Pillai told Hindustan Times on Monday that this money would not be raised separately.
It would be made available by relocating the states’ budget allocations. The development projects in the Naxal-affected areas will begin by September end.
Pillai said the money would be spent in five areas —road connectivity, health, education, electricity and development.
On land acquisition, Pillai said there are already restrictions on direct acquisition by private entities in the tribal-dominated areas marked under Schedule IV of the Constitution.
Although most of Naxal-affected districts are tribal-dominated areas, the present law does not restrict the government from acquiring land for private investment.
The 33 districts identified for special development include one from Andhra , six from Bihar, seven from Chhattisgarh, 10 from Jharkhand, one from Madhya Pradesh, two from Maharashtra, five from Orissa and one from Uttar Pradesh.