Owning land during the British Raj in the Indian sub-continent was not easy for natives. The pro-capitalist Government could easily annex any piece of land, for building factories, for example, not necessarily for the welfare of the natives, but to meet their own selfish needs. The Land Acquisition Act of 1894 made sure that no matter what the natives said or suffered, the Government held complete rights over the land. 125 years later, the ordinance issued by the Govt. to amend the Land Acquisition Act 2013 takes us suddenly back to those dark anti-liberal times.
On the 3rd of April 2015, the Govt. issued an ordinance to amend the Land Acquisition Act 2013. The ordinance makes certain changes to the Land Acquisition Act 2013. The main change is concerning the exemption of five categories of land use from certain provisions of the Act. These categories are those pertaining to land use for defence, infrastructure, industrial corridors, rural infrastructure and affordable housing.
The exemption is from the following 3 provisions of the act:
1.Consent of 80% of landowners is taken when land is acquired for private projects and consent of 70% landowners for public-private partnership projects
2.Social impact assessment must be conducted for all projects. To determine if projects is for public purpose and determine social impact
3.Restrictions on amount of agricultural land that can be acquired
This allows for an accelerated processing and setting up of defence establishments; rural infrastructure including basic amenities such as electricity and water lines; affordable housing; industrial corridors; and infrastructure projects. It gives a big boost to both private projects and public-private partnership (PPP) projects. This first change facilitates both corporates and common citizens.
The second change is that it brings the compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement provisions of 13 other laws under which land is acquired in consonance with the act as was required by the act. Basically, land owners whose land has been acquired through 13 Acts such as the Electricity Act, Railways Act, National highways Act and Metro railways (construction of works) Act, will be given tantamount compensation. Farmers’ fair compensation is the major beneficial aspect of this law change.
The third change is about land acquisition for private use. While the 2013 Act allows acquisition of land for private companies, the new ordinance makes way for land acquisition for private entities–trusts, non-profit boards, etc. This change is more corporate-friendly. Private trust-run establishments, such as hospitals and colleges, will find this relaxation a boon for their future as this clears many legal hassles out of their way.
To look at the practical downsides of this changed law is very easy. A major percentage of all the land acquired by the Government is covered by the 13 Acts as mentioned above. The 2013 act made it difficult for the private sector to acquire lands as it required the consent of the land owners. But the 2015 Act makes land owners’ consent unnecessary for acquisition. For all the pro-liberals out
there reading this, the 1894 Act did not have any clause mentioning the need for land owner consent for land acquisition. Essentially, the 2015 Act takes us back to the British Raj days as one could imagine in the first paragraph of this article.
Multi-crop land has always been acquired, as recommended, as a last resort. But now it is possible to acquire even this piece of land without any legal hassles.
Social impact assessments (SIAs) are made to assess the possible positive and negative impacts on the public due to the concerned project. Exemption from SIAs makes the Govt. take an autocratic role – meaning the Govt. does not care what happens to the public but will carry on its activities sans any conscience.
The overall 2015 Act is mainly pro-capitalist and could mean better defence and public infrastructure in the country. The GDP could potentially show good growth in the future. But the Act simultaneously maintains neutral or possibly long-term negative prospects for farmers and poor land owners. It is completely against liberty and rekindles the memories from the cold distant past of the British Raj.
Land acquired, Liberty denied.