A new LAND acquisition regime

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The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill will soon be law. What is in it for realty in Kerala, BIJU GOVIND finds out.

When big projects come, the smallholder frets. It is not to be soon as Parliament will pass legislation on acquiring land for public use.

Political parties finally reached a consensus on the long-pending Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill last week. For the farmer, the land is a source of livelihood and of sentimental value.

Giving it up for a pittance to allow development projects scars his life. The Bill aims to grant high compensation for the land acquired — four times the market value in rural areas and two times in urban areas.

What is in it for realty in a State like Kerala where land comes at a premium? It is imperative that fair compensation should be given to displaced people when private land is acquired for public use. Besides, landowners need to be rehabilitated and resettled in a fair manner.

But realtors say the price of land is likely to go up by at least 50 per cent on account of the compensation package.

The Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India has said that the provisions of the Bill will adversely affect the real estate sector.

It has demanded that private builders and property developers be kept out of its domain. The Bill should be made applicable only to government departments and government-supported bodies, such as housing Boards.

Middle-income and low-income groups will not be able to buy land for constructing affordable houses. A chunk of the expenditure has to be spent on acquiring land. Unscrupulous brokers will try to jack up prices.

Speculation has pushed up property rates in the State to record heights in recent times. For instance, the price of a residential plot went up four times from Rs. 50,000 a cent to Rs. 2 lakh in just two years. Real estate agents have taken advantage of the loopholes in the system of undervaluing properties. This was despite the State government publishing the fair value of land in all villages.

Tough time

With the Bill, property developers, including quasi-government bodies, will have a tough time ahead if land prices go higher. Land acquisitions for even smaller housing projects can be hit.

The consent of about 80 per cent of the displaced people will have to be obtained in case of private acquisitions. This clause gets slightly modified to 70 per cent when government acquires property for public or public-private participation projects.

With the Bill, landowners and livelihood losers can expect a windfall from the land acquired through rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements.

Some of its clauses are expected to protect the interest of the farmer-owners and the rights of tenants.

Land will not be acquired if the acquisition cumulatively exceeds five per cent of a multi-crop irrigated area or 10 per cent of a single-crop sown area in a district. Such acquisitions will not apply to linear projects such as railways, highways, State and district roads, power lines and irrigation canals. New clauses such as vesting the ownership with the individual and allowing State governments to pass fresh legislation on leasing of land and limits of acquisition will be incorporated in the Bill.

The governments will see to it that the provisions to amend the schedule will not be misused to dilute the compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement package.

CREDAI has said that the provisions of the Bill will adversely affect the real estate sector.



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