Two infrastructure ministries — road transport and highways and railways — have sought an exemption from the “resettlement and rehabilitation” component under the right to fair compensation and transparency in land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement (amendment) ordinance, 2014, that was cleared by the Union cabinet on Monday.
The highways ministry moved a proposal to the law ministry over a month ago, seeking an exemption from rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) on the ground that roads are linear projects and do not involve large-scale displacement of people. The law ministry has not given its comments on the proposal yet.
Sources said that highways minister Nitin Gadkari and railway minister Suresh Prabhu had raised this issue during the cabinet meeting on Monday when the land acquisition ordinance got approved.
“Extending R&R to highway projects would not only result in project costs going up but would also lead to delay in expeditious implementation of projects. Highway projects which generally take two to three years to get completed would require more time because of R&R, resulting in project timelines getting affected,” said an official of the national highways authority of India (NHAI).
Even in the Land Acquisition Bill, 2013, that was bought by the previous UPA government, compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement was not extended for a period of one year to 13 acts applicable for national highways, metro rail, atomic energy projects among others. The concerned ministries were allowed to give compensation as per their respective Acts. Sources said the highways and railways ministries want the status quo to continue.
“Building highways do not involve large scale displacement of people unlike projects like dams. Extending R&R to highway projects will become counterproductive at a time the government is pushing for fast tracking highway development,” said an NHAI official.
According to NHAI, presently, land costs account for 15-20% of the total project cost. But this will increase to up to 50% once compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement are factored in.