New NAC Bill combines Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation & Resettlement

The United Progressive Alliance government on Friday unveiled its second draft Bill addressing the burning issues of land acquisition as well as rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R). The National Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, as recommended by the National Advisory Council, will make it mandatory that gram sabhas are consulted and the R&R package is executed before the acquired land is transferred.

Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh has proposed one combined bill in place of two Bills which were earlier formulated on these two matters but not taken up for discussion in the Lok Sabha.

Mr. Ramesh will fly to Kolkata on Saturday to explain the details of the new draft legislation to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is opposed to the assignation of any role for the State governments in matters of land acquisition.

The drafting of a new legislation on these issues was taken up by a Group of Ministers in May 2007. It remains to be seen if this draft, which has been put up online inviting comments, will come into force ahead of the 2012 Assembly elections in the State, where land acquisition has become a major issue.

The Ministry has given the public time till August 31 to send their comments and it is anybody's guess if the Ministry will be able to finalise the Bill, get it vetted by the Ministry of Law, have it approved by the Union Cabinet and introduce it in Parliament before the scheduled closure of the monsoon session on September 8.

The government was spurred into redrafting the new Bill in the wake of the turmoil in Uttar Pradesh, where farmers opposed the acquisition of land by the State. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had directed Mr. Ramesh's predecessor Vilasrao Deshmukh to finalise the Bills and introduce them at the monsoon session of Parliament.

Dropping Mr. Deshmukh's approach of drafting two Bills, Mr. Ramesh stressed the importance of combining the two issues so as to prevent the neglect of R&R.

The UPA government risks missing its own deadline due to internal differences among the allies. Dr. Singh had stressed that Ms. Banerjee be taken on board in the matter.

In view of Ms. Banerjee's opposition to the NAC's recommendations, the Bill leaves it to States to choose to intervene in the process of land acquisition, and the extent of their role.

Under the proposed law, the R&R package would necessarily have to be executed for land acquisitions in excess of 100 acres by private companies. The law also prohibits private companies from purchasing any multi-cropped irrigated land for public purposes.

While the State government would not have any role in acquisition of land, it would come into the picture if the private companies petitioned for such an intervention. The government would do so only if the acquisition would benefit the general public.

To safeguard against indiscriminate acquisition, the Bill requires States to set up a committee under the Chief Secretary to approve that the acquisition is of “public purpose” and the social impact assessment for the land in question. If the acquired land was not put to use for within five years of the acquisition, it would be returned to the original owner.

For the first time, the government has acknowledged the role of the gram sabha in the process of land acquisition, stressing that they would have to be “consulted”. This has been done to comply with other laws, such as the Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996; the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006; and Land Transfer Regulations in Schedule V (Tribal) Areas.

The Ministry of Panchayati Raj had opposed the earlier draft, stressing that the approval of the gram sabha was necessary for land acquisition under PESA.

The draft Bill will enjoy primacy over 18 other laws pertaining to land acquisition. Its provision will be in addition to and not in derogation of the existing safeguards currently provided for in these laws.

Both the land owners and livelihood losers will have to be paid compensation. In rural areas, the compensation will amount to six times the market value of the land while in urban areas it would be at least twice the market value. Apart from this, the landowners will be entitled to a subsistence allowance of Rs.3,000 per month for 12 years and Rs.2,000 as annuity for 20 years, with an appropriate index for inflation.

In the cases of land acquired for urbanisation, 20 per cent of the developed land would be reserved and offered to the land owners in proportion to the acquired land. In addition, every affected family would be entitled to one job, else Rs.2 lakh.

Those who lost their house in the land acquisition process would be provided a constructed house with, in rural areas, plinth area of 150 sq. m, and 50 sq. m in urban areas, as well as a one-time resettlement allowance of Rs.50,000.

If the land acquired is for an irrigation project, one acre of land would be provided to each affected family in the command area.

Livelihood losers would get a subsistence allowance of Rs.3,000 per month per family for 12 months and Rs.2,000 per month for 20 years as annuity, factoring in inflation. Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes would get a special package wherein each family was entitled to one acre of land in every project. Those settled outside the district would be entitled to an additional 25 per cent of R&R benefits. The draft envisages that ST families be paid one-third of the compensation amount at the very outset.

They will also have preference in relocation and resettlement in an area in the same compact block and free land for community and social gatherings.

If 100 or more ST families are displaced, a Tribal Displacement Plan would be put in place. It would include settling land rights and restoring titles on alienated land and development of alternate fuel, fodder and non-timber forest produce.

STs and SCs would also get, in the resettlement area, the reservation and other benefits they were entitled to in the displaced area.

The resettlement area should provide at least 25 infrastructural amenities including schools and playgrounds, health centres, roads and electric connections, assured sources of safe drinking water for each family, panchayat ghars, fair-price shops and seed-cum-fertiliser storage facilities, places of worship and burial and cremation grounds.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 5:53:57 PM |

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