Friday, May 1, 2015

Myths And Realties Of Land Bill

Land Acquisition Bill — the Myths and the Facts  
Written by Suman Joshi Malekan 

 (My Views are Given Below)
What the Land Acquisition Bill really is, what its impacts will be, and, how farmers and unaware masses are being misled about the same.
What is the difference between an Act and a Bill?
A Bill is a proposal draft presented in the Parliament by the government, and with the consent of the majority in both the houses, and subsequently, after the President's approval, it becomes an Act.
What is the Land Acquisition Act?
In 2013, the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government passed the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR), popularly called Land Acquisition Act. This act protects farmer's rights against exploitation, and provides them an appropriate amount of compensation in return for land acquired from them. No land can be acquired without the consent of farmers and a proper Social Impact Assessment of that area.
Thankfully, India is a democratic country and unlike other countries, people are asked for their land rather than being asked to evacuate it and move, like it happens in some countries like China, where you have to live by the government’s order — no questions asked or entertained.
What is Land Acquisition Amendment Bill?
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Minister for Rural Development, Mr. Birender Singh on February 24, 2015. The Bill amends the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition.
As India continues to grow, for better infrastructure, the government needs more land. Now, the ruling government has made certain changes in the existing Act, and proposed a modified Bill. The reasons for these changes are:

• Plea from state governments for leverage to make processes easier and fair.
• To simplify and expedite the process of acquisition and compensation, to initiate ground work at a faster rate.
• To ensure confidentiality on the perspective of national security.
Changes made by ruling government in the existing Act and proposed in the new bill
Change 1 — Removal of Consent Clause and Social Impact Assessment
The LARR Act, 2013 requires that the consent of 80% of land owners is obtained for private projects, and that the consent of 70% of land owners be obtained for Public-Private Partnership projects.
The new bill exempts the five categories mentioned below from this provision of the Act, for security reasons and for reinforcing the base of development that requires immediate action.
• Defence
• Industrial corridors
• National security
• Rural Infrastructure & electrification
• Housing for the poor
Change 2 — Return of unutilized land and time period for retrospective application
The LARR Act, 2013 states that the land acquired under it, if remains unutilized for five years, must be returned to the original owners or the land bank.
The Bill states that the period after which unutilized land will need to be returned will be: five years, or any period specified at the time of setting up the project, whichever is later.
The LARR Act, 2013 states that the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 will continue to apply in certain cases, where an award has been made under the 1894 Act. However, if such an award was made before September 2008, and the physical possession of land has not been taken or compensation has not been paid, the LARR Act, 2013 will apply.
The Bill states that in calculating this time period, any period during which the proceedings of acquisition were held up due to a stay order of a court, or a period specified in the award of a Tribunal for taking possession, or any period where possession has been taken but the compensation is lying deposited in a court or any account, will not be counted.
Change 3 — Modification in the rule for private hospitals and educational institutions
The LARR Act, 2013 excluded the acquisition of land for private hospitals and private educational institutions from its purview.
The Bill removes this restriction.
Change 4 — The clause of private companies
The LARR Act, 2013 was applicable for the acquisition of land for private companies.
The Bill changes this to acquisition for ‘private entities’. A private entity is an entity other than a government entity, and could include a proprietorship, partnership, company, corporation, non-profit organization, or other entity under any other law.
Change 5 — Change in prosecution and verdict for offenders
The LARR Act, 2013 stated that if an offence is committed by the government, the head of the department would be considered guilty, unless he could show that the offence was committed without his knowledge, or that he/she had implemented required meticulousness to prevent the occurrence of the offence.
The Bill replaces this provision and states that if an offence is committed by a government official, he cannot be prosecuted without the prior consent of the government.
The pros of the Bill
• Important matters where the government requires land for providing to the poor and rural infrastructure etc. will be quicker and hassle-free, given that the process of taking consent from a large group of people is a long procedure, and makes the development process lag by several years.

• There’ll be no obligations for the government to explain to a large group of people why they need the land, when it comes to defense operations, and nuclear installations in the interest of national security and secrecy in related operations.

• There’ll be no disputes in case a project is not completed within five years. Because, in the former case, the land would go under dispute and it would be of no use to anyone, as a result of which it’ll just be a never-ending case lying like a hurdle between the development job initiated and the owner using it for their own personal use.

• Unions and local influential people will not be able to target the government officials in false cases, and a neutral unbiased operational structure will be established.

• Saving the damage caused due to hurry hassles in completing a project without dedication because of time limits.
How will it affect farmers?
It won’t, as the compensation terms, employment terms and other benefits for farmers as stated in the original act will stay intact.

• The compensation from the land will be 4 times of what they get now, and will also give them a choice of retaining 20% of their land after development by paying the acquisition cost.

• Only for the better, the ruling government has increased input subsidies for distressed farmers by 50% and the same for crop destruction by 30%.
Rural infrastructure will develop and provide ease of selling yield, accessing facilities like schools, colleges etc. that’ll stop migration of youth from villages. Medical aid will be readily available and power plants will increase efficiency of production.

How farmers are being misled
Myths vs Reality
Myth — The current government has diluted the Act.
Reality – The Act has not been diluted. Only certain changes are proposed after foreseeing that farmers will get compensation, relief & rehabilitation for all central government projects, which was earlier denied.
Myth — Removal of Consent Clause and Social Impact Assessment will be harmful to farmers.
Reality — It will only expedite development initiatives, and accelerate crucial projects, which will bring a qualitative improvement in a farmer’s life.
Myth — The Bill will impact farmers in a negative way, and snatch their ownership.
Reality — It will help farmers make use of their unproductive land, and give them better returns on it. They will finally be able to embrace prosperity, and get rid of their stagnant poverty despite immense hard work.
Myth — Return of unutilized land and Time period for retrospective application limit of 5 years being dissolved will be harmful.
Reality — It will only be beneficial as there are many projects that take more than 5 years to complete viz, railway projects, housing projects etc. As seen in the past, in a hurried baffle of completing them in less than 5 years, either results in compromise on quality and planning or they become disputed halfway, and are of no use to both the parties.
Assurances and fair points
• Obligatory employment to one person of the affected family.
• Industrial corridors under state or central government only will be covered under the Act.
• It will be ensured that no extra land is acquired apart from what is minimum requirement for a certain project.
• No industrial corridors will exceed 1 km of distance on both sides.
• Area specific authorities will be set up for hearings in case of disputes.

My Views On Consent of Farmer and Social Impact Analysis of Acquisition of Land is as follows

First the ordinance and now the amendments - the land bill continues to make news as it enters the Rajya Sabha. While the Opposition has accused the government of diluting farmers' interests, the government says that without necessary amendments, India will not be able to embark on a path of industrialisation.
  • So is this by far the best land bill we could have?
  • Should the 'consent clause' be brought back as demanded by the farmers?
  • Has the government made land acquisition easier?
  •  Will forcible acquisition be a thing of the past?
 I have tried to enlighten on the issue of seeking consent of three fourth of farmers and making analysis of social impact of land acquisition in following lines.

It is important to mention here that only in the state of Jharkhand ,34 MOU were signed by government of Jharkhand and out of which only 17 have started operation and 20 are pending for execution in want of land. .Most of stalled projects are related to power generation and from private sector. Similarly numerous projects coming under private or public sector are pending in various states due to many reasons , one being non-availability of land also.

In my opinion , government should avoid using Land bill for use of private business entities until it is inevitable due to some urgent reasons and until it is well established that it is in the larger interest of the society. Government cannot dream of rural housing or industrialisation of rural areas until adequate land is acquired. And quick growth is possible in any state only when process of land acquisition is made easier. But in no case land which are used for farming can be or should be acquired unless and until it is unavoidable . Only barren land or unirrigated land can be and should be acquired for normal industrialisation and for normal work. Private entities should be left to acquire land at their own as far as possible and only public utility services should get priority in land acquisition.

Government and local authorities should make a survey to find out and assess how much land may be acquired without affecting the livelihood of farmers. Land bank may be formed in line with concept of Blood bank functioning in all big towns and cities. Blood helps the person during his or her acute sickness and when the survival is at stake. Similarly land helps the sick state and helps poor, downtrodden and land less labourers to get job if adequate number of industries are set up in all villages and towns as per potential of the area.

UPA government did not do anything for ten years but just at the fag end of tenure passed a bill which appears to be growth oriented but in fact it is impractical for all practical purposes. The key reason is consent clause . Though applicability of consent clause and social impact analysis before acquisition of land appears to touch emotions of many farmers and politicians, but these two factors are real barrier in growth and quick acquisition of land. It is easy to preach these two conditions but it is completely unimaginable that there will be consensus on any case of land acquisition.

It is important to say here that even in Parliament , and state assemblies where most of participating members are knowledgeable, talented, intelligent but they never agree to any bill . None of bills placed in the Parliament is ever passed with 70 to 80 percent of MPs or MLAs .Bills pertaining to rise in salary ,perquisite , pension and other benefits to all MPS and MLAs are only passed without any objection from any corner and passed with consent of 100 percent members. Otherwise, any government cannot dream of passing a bill in state assemblies or in Parliament without facing chaotic scene created by opposing parties.

During TV debates organised by promoters of TV channels, it is seen how persons of different political parties quarrel with each other and oppose any bill or any issue for the sake of opposition only. In our country most of party men follow what High command of the party dictates to follow. None of them applies their own mind or concerned with interest of common men and interest of the country.

Even media men speak what they are asked to speak by promoter of TV channel. Media men invent negative points and discover bad news to make it breaking news and to increase TRP without assessing the impact of such news on the society and on the nation. Media men focus on news related to rape, murder, accident, briber, scam, and all bad news to attract the mind of audience. They do not have time to project good work done by any officer or any government.

Similarly in a village where so many mukhiyas and muscle men or local self made guardians and protectors of village will crop up and fight with each other to establish their supremacy as happen in Indian Parliament . In an environment where even members of same blood group families do not like group concept and willingly or unwillingly families face division after division ,it is absolutely impossible that 70 to 80 of villagers will ever agree to any case of land acquisition. Land in villages are divided among family members and share of land available to any one members in a family is shrinking year after year . Division of land has happened to such an extent that many farmers either have left farming or are engaged in labour work because farming has become economically unfeasible for small portion of land they own.

Dirty politics of rural area will not allow consensus to happen on majority opinion to happen in case of land acquisition. In rural areas also there are some farmers pro-BJP and some pro-Congress Party , some are pro-Lalu and some are Pro-Mulayam or pro-Mayawati. . People are divided even in a small family which causes breaking of family and quarrels among family members as also with neighbours. It will be foolish to imagine of success of principle of consensus in such position when interest of each family mostly is in conflicting position to that of neighbouring family. Similarly every family will have different mind-set towards social impact caused by acquisition of particular portion of land. Some of them will find a land acquisition as good for society and some will find it a loss venture.

It is important to point out here that majority of civil suits pending in various courts all over the country are related to land dispute only . Majority of land owners are not in good relation with neighbouring land owners. Land dispute among family members and with neighbours are more in number than land disputes with government or due to land acquisition. Similarly farmers in general are unhappy not with value of compensation they get in lieu of land acquired by government, but with delay and corruption involved in getting of promised value of compensation.

As such application of consent clause and concept of social impact analysis may appear to be farmer friendly , but it will definitely delay and hamper growth to a great extent.

However it is the moral duty of each government in each state and that of local authorities and social organisation to implement the amended Land bill and ensure minimum loss to farming and local farmers. Any law cannot yield sweet fruits until the law enforcing agencies are honest and pure in their mind .


During last 68 years , almost all ruling parties and all government promised for elimination of poverty and promised maximum benefit to farmers , but unfortunately even Today condition of farmers and common men in general is not at all good and it has deteriorated year after year. And this is why some of farmers decide to end their life when they face huge loss in farming even after spending all their own money and borrowed money.

Need of the hour is improve the position of farmers and common men and this is possible by all round growth . This is possible only after farmers carry on farming and they get proper education facilities, medical facilities ,additional job opportunity also in their area only. This is possible only when all parties shed their personal ego and they jointly arrive at a consensus position which is less damaging and more fruitful and beneficial for large section of society.

Suicide by farmers or by any one is not indicative of good health of the social comfort level and not indicative of good governance. As a matter of fact Parliament is not for the purpose of mutual mud slinging or for serving the ill-motivated and conflicting interest of various parties but for framing of rules, act and law after through debate and discussion.

Farmers will stop committing suicide only when the business of farming become a profitable venture . Big farmers exploit small farmers in villages and it is they who oppose land bill prominently. Small farmers and landless labourers are least bothered when land is acquired or not. They bother how to earn livelihood in their area and this will become easier for them only when other opportunities of jobs are crated in villages.

Last but not the least, it will not be wrong and incorrect to say  that those parties and media men who are now advocating of seeking consent of three fourth of farmers and making of analysis of social impact caused by acquisition of land are playing foul game to serve their self interest and to increase their vote bank and to brighten their political future. Such advocates are neither growth oriented nor farmer friendly.They are to oppose Land bill for the sake of opposition only.

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