Govt may bring changes to land act in winter session of Parliament

  • Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 30, 2014 08:27 IST

To kick-start stalled development projects and remove investment bottlenecks, the government is expected to make changes to the land acquisition act during the winter session that opens on November 24.

Dilution of the consent clause, restricting social impact assessment to large projects and giving states the powers to define “emergency” under “urgency clause” for acquiring land are some of the major amendments -- demanded by various states -- that the Centre is looking at.

Given the contentious nature of the legislation, the government was holding wide-ranging consultations to ensure a smooth sailing when the amendments are tabled in Parliament, said sources.

Last week, finance minister Arun Jaitley, rural development minister Nitin Gadkari and many RSS leaders deliberated over the implications of the proposed changes. While there was unanimity on the need to amend the Act, passed by the UPA government, the leaders were in agreement that farmers’ rights should be protected at any cost.

“Senior ministers are of the view that only those amendments on which there is a greater consensus should be pressed. We do not want our exercise to lead to a standoff with opposition parties. The amendment bill will be finalised within a couple of weeks,” a source privy to the development said.

A note about proposed changes was circulated during the high tea that Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted for NDA MPs on October 26. It was taken back after the Parliamentarians had gone through it.

In June, the Centre had discussed the changes with revenue ministers of states and all of them, including those from the Congress-ruled states, had reservation about many provisions of the Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

The Centre will focus on the changes on which there was consensus. “The consent clause should be re-examined, as ownership of the land vests with the government in PPP (public-private partnership) projects,” the note circulated by the rural development ministry after the revenue ministers’ conference said.

“The consent clause should be removed from PPP projects. Alternatively, consent requirement may be brought down to 50%,” the note said.

This is one of the many amendments that the Centre could move, government sources said. The government could also make changes to the social impact clause, a mandatory assessment prior to acquiring land to judge its essentiality and to identify both land and livelihood losers.

“Mandatory social impact assessment (SAI) study should be done away with. SIA should be confined to large projects/PPP projects as it may delay the acquisition process,” it has been suggested.

“States have also asked the ministry to revisit the definition of “affected family”, which some of them say was too elaborate”.

One of the proposals that figured in the note sent to the PMO says state governments should also have the powers to determine “any other emergency” under the urgency clause.

Some states also demanded that the rehabilitation and resettlement obligation should be done away with if the land was purchased with mutual consent by a private party. The Centre was also asked by states to re-examine “land for land” provision.

Read: Forest Rights Act diluted for projects

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