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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Land acquisition law may be eased for PPP projects
Need for consent of affected families and social-impact assessment could go
Photo: Reuters
New Delhi  November 5, 2014: The National Democratic Alliance government is planning to exempt public-private partnership (PPP) projects from the need to obtain consent of affected families and the mandatory social-impact assessment, through amendments to the land acquisition law.

In the Bill put up by the previous government and passed by Parliament, PPP projects need consent of 70 per cent of affected families and have to study the social implications in the neighbourhood.

Most states, irrespective of being ruled by the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party, sought scrapping of the social-impact study, claiming it would delay land acquisition by two years. The same reason was cited against the consent clause, too. An alternative formula was suggested, for reducing the consent requirement to 50 per cent of land owners. "The Act provides for obtaining consent from 70 per cent of affected families in the case of acquisition for PPP projects. This will be a big ask and identifying land owners in the initial stage will create problems. This will delay initial acquisition proceedings," Kerala's revenue minister had argued.

The exemption is one of the amendments that might be proposed by the department of land resources. The department of law and justice has endorsed the changes and has said the Centre has the powers to bring these in through an ordinance. A final decision is awaited.

The draft amendments in The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation & Resettlement Act are expected to go to the Cabinet for clearance. The Act came into force on January 1, by repealing the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

No dilution has been proposed in rehabilitation & resettlement practices. However, projects governed by 13 laws in the fourth schedule of the Act could be given a concession period of five years, to bring in rehabilitation & resettlement provisions on par with or greater than those provided in the law.

In the earlier law, the concession period was around one year. Some of the laws that provide for land acquisition include The Atomic Energy Act, 1962; The Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act, 1978; The Land Acquisition (Mines) Act, 1885; The National Highways Act, 1956; and The Special Economic Zones Act, 2005.

Some state governments had represented to the Centre that projects needed by farmers, such as irrigation, canals and roads, were being delayed by lengthy procedures and contradictory sections in the new law. These will be streamlined.

The new land acquisition law was formulated by the previous government and passed by Parliament. Soon after the NDA government took over, there were consultations to bring in changes. Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari held discussions with all states in June. His ministry sent a list of proposed amendments to the Prime Minister's Office after it received inputs from the states.

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