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Govt Unveils Draft Of Land Acquisition, Rehab Bill

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Amid a raging controversy over land acquisition, the Government on Friday unveiled a new draft bill putting in place a transparent, legal framework aimed at giving adequate compensation to land owners and ensuring rehabilitation of those displaced.

The much-awaited 'The Draft National Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation & Resettlement Bill, 2011', which has been put in public domain, says "in case of urban areas, the award amount would be not less that twice that of the market value determined whereas in rural areas it would be not less that six times the original market value".

The draft bill proposes that the consent of 80 per cent of the project-affected families will be mandatory if the government acquires land for use by private companies for stated public purpose or PPP projects other than that for national highway.

It also states that the public purpose once stated cannot be changed.

The draft suggests that under no circumstances should multi-cropped, irrigated land be acquired. Most of such land lies in the Indo-Gangetic plains covering Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar.

Also government will not be acquiring land for private companies for private purpose.

Observing that land markets in India are "imperfect", Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said his foreword to the draft that there is asymmetry of power and information between those wanting to acquire the land and those whose lands are being acquired.

"That is why there has to be a role for the government to put in place a transparent and flexible set of rules and regulations and to ensure its enforcement," he said.

The draft bill authorises the government to invoke "urgency clause" to acquire land in the cases of national defence and security purposes, rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) needs in the event of emergencies or natural calamities and in any "rarest of rare" cases.

The salient features of the draft bill include a comprehensive rehabilitation package for land owners and livelihood losers, including the landless who are primarily dependent on the land being acquired.

It entails subsistence allowance at Rs 3000 per month per family for 12 months and Rs 2000 per family as annuity for 20 years, with appropriate index for inflation. It also makes it mandatory to provide employment to one member of family or Rs two lakh if a job is not offered and other incentives.

For land owners, it also has a provision of one acre of land in the command area (of the project) for each family if their land has been acquired for an irrigation project.

In case of land acquisition for urbanisation, 20 per cent of developed land will be reserved and offered to the owners in proportion to the land taken.

If a tribal's land is acquired, one acre of land should be given to each Scheduled Tribes' family in every project. It also says one time financial assistance of Rs 50,000 should also be given to the ST families, whose land is taken.

Ramesh said the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation & Resettlement have been combined in one bill as they are two sides of the same coin.

Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) had recommended the government to combine the two.

"R&R must always, in each instance necessarily follow upon acquisition of land. Not combining the two- R&R and land acquisition- within one law, risks neglect of R&R. This has, indeed, been the experience thus far," Ramesh said, adding the the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 has become archaic.

The Bill envisages establishment of a National Monitoring Committee for reviewing and overseeing R & R plans.

For speedy disposal of disputes related to acquisition, compensation and R&R, the states shall set up Land Acquisition Dispute Settlement Authority.

There are 18 laws of the central government for land acquisition (like for highways, SEZs, defence, railways etc).

The draft bill will enjoy primacy over other such laws, Ramesh said, noting, "the provisions of the draft bill will be in addition to and not in derogation of the existing safeguards currently provided for in these laws".

He said the draft is fully compliant with provision of Forest Rights Act, 2006, and other statutes.

The bill seeks to "ensuring a humane, participatory, informed, consultative and transparent process and above all ensuring that the cumulative outcome of compulsory acquisition should be that affected persons become partners in development."

Ramesh said in every case, land acquisition must take place in a manner that fully protects the interests of land-owners and also of those whose livelihoods depend on the land being acquired.

"Under our Constitution, land is a State subject but land acquisition is a Concurrent subject. So far, the basic law governing the land acquisition process has been the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Although it has been amended from time to time, it is painfully evident that the basic law has become archaic," he said.

The Minister said the issue of who acquires land is less important than the process of land acquisition, compensation for land acquired and the R&R process, package and conditions.

"This draft Bill specifies these irrespective of the ratios of private and government acquisition. The objective is to make the process of land acquisition easy, transparent and fair for both sides in each instance," he said.

Ramesh said his ministry has launched initiatives to update and digitise land records and to move from a presumptive system to a conclusive system.