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Feb 25, 2015

Land Acquisition bill tests government’s pro-poor stance

Oxfam India staff

50 million people have been displaced in the last 50 years

The Budget session restarts with the Indian government facing a unified opposition in Parliament on the Land Acquisition bill.

The reason: A revised version of The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (RFCLARR) has been introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Act of 2013, following an ordinance in December 2014.

Sharelines

 #LandAcquisitionbill debate in Parliament during #Budget session. @OxfamIndia points out its expectations from the law. Read here. http://bit.ly/1EsnzGD

 50m people displaced due to “development projects” over last 50 years. @OxfamIndia lists its expectations from the #LandAcquisitionbill. http://bit.ly/1EsnzGD

A quick recap

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (RFCLARR) was enacted in 2013 after rounds of consultations and discussions with various stakeholders with important provisions on consent of project affected people and social impact assessment. It replaced the draconian land acquisition Act of 1894.

On December 31, 2014 the government of India issued an ordinance making significant changes to the Act.

The most notable of them was the removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas of industrial corridors, public private partnership (PPP) projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.

The ordinance also exempts projects in the above mentioned five areas from Social Impact Assessment (SIA) and consent of affected communities.

It is worrisome that the ordinance promotes land acquisition in favour of large-scale industrial, infrastructural and defence related expansion.

Situation in the country

Government sources estimate that 50 million people have been displaced due to “development projectsover 50 years in India. These estimates are based on a 2011 study by Indian Institute of Technology, Rourkee [i].   

These are stark numbers. It is in this backdrop that the RFCLARR 2013 replaced the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 [ii]

The 2013 legislation laid down an elaborate process including requiring consent from project affected people . 

This process was mandated for each instance of land acquisition and rehabilitation -- be it for public, private or for projects executed through Public Private Partnership (PPP). 

But the ordinance makes sweeping dilutions to the RFCLARR, 2013. Official sources indicate that the government felt that there is an urgent need to bring about changes to “expedite the process of land acquisition for strategic and development activities” [iii]

At a time when constitutional processes are undermined through the “Ordinance route” [iv] , Oxfam India expects the following:

•The dilutions made in the RFCLARR Act 2013 through the present ordinance should be rolled back

•Exemptions to a whole range of projects on seeking consent from the affected people should be reinstated.

•Exemptions to SIA on acquisition of land for private projects including multi-cropped land should be revoked.

•The provisions related to return of unutilized land should be reinstated. 

•No further dilutions to the Act should be allowed.

 Find out Oxfam india's expectation from the land bill, click here

Notes

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[i] Negi,  Nalin Singh and Ganguly, Sujata (2011), CO Development Projects vs. Internally Displaced Populations in India: A Literature Based Appraisal,  MCAD Arbeitspapiere - Working Paper Series, University of Bielefeld, Bielefeld.

[ii] A more elaborate exposition of Oxfam’s position on the content and significant features of the Act can be accessed at Dubochet, Lucy(2012), The proposed Land Acquisition Bill: Putting Livelihoods First, Oxfam India Policy Brief, No.2, Oxfam India, New Delhi.

[iii] Department of Land Resources(undated) Information Note on Ordinance to amend the RFCTLARR Act, 2013, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, New Delhi,  accessed on 15th January 2015  on http://www.dolr.nic.in/dolr/downloads/pdfs/RFCTLARR%20Act%20 (Amendment) %20Ordinance,%202014%20-%20Information%20Note.pdf

[iv] The RFCLARR Ordinance, 2014 has been issued under Article 123 of the Indian Constitution, which gives powers to the President of India to promulgate such ordinances when parliament is in recess. The ordinance is only valid for only for six weeks after the reassembling of the Parliament. The President can also withdraw it at any time.

 

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