The proposed Land Acquisition Bill
Putting Livelihoods First
A coherent policy response to the tough social questions raised by compulsory land acquisition is long overdue. Conflicts have escalated, while successive governments failed to enact a law protecting the livelihoods of affected people. The proposed Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2011 is a major step forward in this regard. However, a number of loopholes in the bill need to be addressed. Otherwise, it will not respond adequately to the sensitive nature of India’s land situation and instead, make the conflict more intractable by covering unchanged practices under a new law.
The proposed Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill sets out to reconcile two agendas that have so far clashed. It aims to secure the land requirements of the government’s development agenda, while addressing the mounting resistance of people whose land is acquired. The bill is a major step forward because it links land acquisition with rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R). By doing so, it brings to the forefront questions that have long since been at the heart of conflicts around land acquisition.
- When can the government legitimately exercise its powers of ‘eminent domain’, that is to forcibly acquire land in exchange for compensation of previous owners and users?
- In other words, how narrowly should the notion of public purpose be defined? How should compensation and R&R procedures be designed to counter the negative impacts on displaced people?