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States want review of key provisions in Land Acquisition Act

A conference of state revenue ministers recently suggested wide-ranging changes to dilute the Land acquisition act, and chief among them was to re-examine the consent clause, as ownership of land rests with the government in Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects, and also scrap the mandatory social impact assessment (SIA).

The 19 suggestions from the conference, chaired by rural development minister Nitin Gadkari have been forwarded to the Prime Minister who is expected to place them before the cabinet for approval. The suggestions have come from the state government and not from the centre.

Some of the ministers  and officials from 32 states and Union Territories who attended the meeting on June 27,  felt the consent clause should be removed from PPP projects or alternatively consent requirement could  be brought down to 50 per cent. States like Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Haryana felt that the provisions in section 2 of the Act for obtaining consent of affected families in projects should be re-examined.

Kerala felt that obtaining consent of land owners prior to preliminary notification was a herculean task as the identification of land owners at such initial stages may pose a problem. Madhya Pradesh felt that the provision of consent from 70 per cent land owners in case of PPP projects should either be deleted or eased out.

Mr. Gadkari has been speaking of granting quick clearances to infrastructure projects and removing hurdles and these suggestions seem to fit in with the aim.  Among the important ones made by states were the need to do away with the mandatory social impact assessment (SIA) study prescribed in the act, which is called the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013.

Some states said that SIA should be confined to large projects or PPP projects as it may delay the acquisition process. They felt the elaborate process for the SIA including the establishment of an expert group should be done away with. Kerala felt that while SIA should be compulsory, it should be conducted only for larger projects and the process is time consuming and escalates the cost of small projects substantially. It also submitted that while public hearings should be there for ensuring transparency, sometimes projects may be scuttled.

The Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar, and Lakshadweep felt that it was difficult to find expert groups for SIA and carrying it out would be impractical.  States also wanted the definition of “affected family” in the act to be re examined as it is very elaborate and includes livelihood losers working in the affected area for three years prior to the acquisition of land and whose primary source of livelihood is affected.

Some also opposed the penalty provisions under sections 84 to 90 of the Act including imprisonment of six months extendable to three years or with fine or both, for government servants and said they were too stringent and may lead to harassment of civil servants. The summary of suggestions says that states also want the provision of land for land re-examined and deletion of section 101 dealing with the return of

unutilised land to the original land owners or heirs. The clause specifying sharing of 40 per cent enhanced cost with original land owners when the land is transferred on higher consideration should be deleted as it leads to disputes, states felt.

The states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim did not attend the conference.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 8:16:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/states-want-review-of-key-provisions-in-land-acquisition-act/article6211539.ece

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