In its new land acquisition draft bill, the UPA government wants to restrict use of the “urgency clause”— providing special acquiring powers to states — to avoid a Noida-like situation in future. The draft says that special powers in case of urgency can be applied only in ‘rarest of rare cases’.
Under the special powers in case of urgency (clause 17 of the 1894 Act), states could acquire land in just 15 days notice without giving landowners right to hearing.In Uttar Pradesh, successive governments invoked this clause to acquire over 15,000 hectares of land in the Noida and Greater Noida area in last two decades.
The courts, since mid-April, have struck down acquisition of 433 acres of land under this clause leading to an uncertainty in several real estate projects.
Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh’s new draft also narrowed down the nature of purposes for which this provision was earlier applied: “(The provision is) restricted to the minimum area required for the defense of India or national security or for any emergencies arising out of natural calamities”.
Farmer’s agitation in Greater Noida saw Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi going on a padyatra. Gandhi slammed the UP land acquisition policy even as chief minister Mayawati announced a new package for the land dealings.
Later, Ramesh promised to incorporate Gandhi’s inputs in the new bill.
The 1894 Land Acquisition Act (the prevailing law) mentioned creation of railway lines or stations, maintaining any structure, irrigation system, water supply, drainage, road communication or electricity as purposes for which this provision can be invoked.
The new draft is silent on these specifications.
The new rehabilitation and resettlement provisions will be applicable under this provision. Ramesh has, however, retained the earlier provision that “before taking possession of any land, the collector shall tender payment of 80% of the compensation” with “an additional compensation of 75% of the market value shall be paid in respect of land and property.”