Still to decide on private land acquisition

The Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) decided on Wednesday to propose to the government that compensation for those whose land is acquired for public purposes — such as a dam, irrigation project or military installation — will be six times the registered sale deed value, including solatium.

It will also recommend that those whose livelihood and shelter are adversely affected because of acquisition for any public purpose are also brought under the protection of this law. These include agricultural workers, artisans, fisher-folk and forest-gatherers.

Government protection

Meanwhile, though no decision was taken on acquisition of land for private purposes, the NAC, sources said, was veering around to a consensus that such transactions — provided they displaced more than 400 households — would have to be done under the protection of the government, with the latter acquiring all 100 per cent of the land.

The logic for this is threefold: one, if the government does not intervene in such cases, the poor and vulnerable could be exploited by big buyers; two, those displaced in such cases would not be entitled to the relief and rehabilitation package that the government will give those displaced by projects with a public purpose; and three, those who lose livelihoods and shelter would be totally beggared.

However, as this — government intervention in acquiring of land for private purposes — involves complicated legal issues, the NAC has asked the Working Group which prepared the discussion note for Wednesday's meeting to do some more work on this. The WG is headed by Harsh Mander and its two other members are Aruna Roy and N.C. Saxena.

Unlike in the case of food security and communal violence, the NAC will only make a set of recommendations for government on land acquisition — it will not be drafting a law, the sources said.

The NAC also decided to recommend a single National Development, Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, rather than the two separate pending government Bills, the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill 2009 (LAA 2009) and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill, 2009 (R&R 2009).

The Council also stressed that that all possible options of more barren, less fertile and waste lands are explored before acquiring agriculture land. It should also comprehensively define project affected persons/families, and provide for a just, timely compensation, resettlement and rehabilitation package through a humane, participatory, informed, consultative and transparent process.

The NAC felt that those who have government assigned land (beneficiaries of government pattas) will also be entitled to the same compensation. The option will also be offered to those who lose land to receive all or part of their compensation in the form of annuities.

If land is acquired for a public purpose and not used within five years, private property that was acquired should be returned to its original owners.

Panel mooted

The NAC recommended the setting up of a National Commission for Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation (NCLRR) with powers to supervise, and exercise oversight over land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation.

Those who attended the meeting included Narendra Jadhav, Pramod Tandon, Jean Dreze, N C Saxena, Madhav Gadgil, Aruna Roy, Anu Aga, Shiva Kumar, Deep Joshi, Farah Naqvi, Harsh Mander and Mirai Chatterjee.