Land Acquisition Bill-Evolvement

land-acquisition-Bill

Land acquisition is a social necessity. The state ought to be given powers to acquire land. The law books throughout the history of India are full of examples as to how land was acquired by the state for socially benevolent or malicious purposes.
However, in the last 20 years, there has been a new development in the acquisition of land. This has to do with private sector acquisition of land, which is usually low cost land considering the market forces at that particular time and place.
While government acquisition of land usually takes place in urban areas to build infrastructure such as metro railway tracks, stations, post offices, milk booths, schools, colleges etc, private sector acquisition usually takes place in rural areas as the objective here is to make a profit. Government is empowered by law to acquire land while the private sector can legally and technically only buy land and not officially acquire it.
A report from investment firm, Religare has stated that the proposed Land Acquisition Bill is likely to raise land acquisition costs for companies from the mining, metal and infrastructure sectors. It has also mentioned that the bill’s dynamics might speed up land acquisition for companies by reducing the number of hurdles and disputes in the overall acquisition process.
However, we are missing the point here. Land acquisition is not just a cost head in business.
It has to be treated as a social reform process. If forest land is de-notified and acquired and tribals are not to be paid any monetary compensation, then does it mean there is no loss of culture, displacement and social disturbance just because the balance sheet of the government or private company (mining or real estate) does not show any liabilities?
Even in urban areas, land acquired (just as in Greater NOIDA) is doled out for closely set apartments, which promote an unhealthy way of living with narrow lanes, little or no parking space and negligible room for children to move about.
The report has named Tata Steel, JSW, Jindal Steel and Power and Sterlite Energy among the companies that could witness cost over-runs on various projects due to higher land acquisition prices. The bill in question has been cleared by cabinet earlier and has been scheduled to be introduced in Parliament in due course. The Religare report has said that the bill, prima facie, is expected to increase the cost of land acquisition for the Railways, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), mining, airport and metal projects, even as it may make land acquisition processes better with compensation and less ambiguity leading to less disputes.
An upward revision in project costs is also likely to be seen at Jindal Steel and Power’s Jharkhand project, Tata Steel’s Odisha project and Sterlite Energy’s Jharsuguda project, where land acquisition is still going on, Religare Capital has added.
In the case of the Railways, there can be delays and an increase in the cost of projects like dedicated freight corridors, while the cost of future airports may also go up. The higher cost of land would also have a negative impact on the ports sector. With respect to roads, land acquisition is mainly done by the NHAI through its own coffers. Hence, while the overall cost of development will move up, the returns of private sector entities developing the roads will remain the same.
In the case of mining companies, the government allots them mining concessions/blocks and then the land is either leased out by the government or the mining companies need to acquire it, which may mean a higher cost of land acquisition. Meanwhile, apex real estate body CREDAI has gone on record saying that the proposed Act would make land costlier, adversely affecting housing development in the country.
We are aware that housing development or real estate is already a highly inefficient industry in our country. This development may make sure that only the super efficient companies survive and others fall by the wayside.
The bill is believed to include a proposal that makes rehabilitation and resettlement mandatory if private companies buy 50 acres or more in urban areas, or 100 acres or more in rural areas.
The compensation offered to land owners would be four times higher than the market rate, along with other benefits, as per the bill. Cabinet has already cleared the measure, billed as one of the landmark legislations of the UPA-II government, and it was scheduled to be introduced sometime soon.
The Union Cabinet has cleared the land acquisition bill, which proposes to give a much better deal, including higher compensation, to landowners, and sets the stage for a radical overhaul of the 1894 Act. However, what is sad is that the change in social viewpoint has not been looked into with the proposed change in law.
The bill, among other things, makes it mandatory for private parties buying 50 acres in urban areas to file intimation with the district collectors on “the intent to buy the land, the purpose of purchase and the particulars of the land to be bought.”
By – Debasish Roy, Property Plus

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