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The Big Picture – Land Bill: Can amended version stand scrutiny?


The confrontation and controversy over the land acquisition bill continues despite the amended version having been passed by the Lok Sabha. The ordinance brought in by the new government which had amended several provisions of the law enacted in 2013 by the UPA government had faced stiff resistance. Some of the clauses including the one related to Social Impact Assessment had been removed in the ordinance. However, the present government brought in 9 amendments in the Bill before getting it passed in the Lok Sabha. However, the Bill may again face resistance in the Rajya Sabha.

Changes introduced in the Bill are:

  • Land shall be acquired up to 1 km on both sides of designated railway lines or roads for industrial corridor.
  • Government shall undertake a survey of wasteland and arid land and maintain a record.
  • A provision is included in the Bill for providing employment to project affected families.
  • Hearings to be held in districts where land acquisition takes place.
  • Courts won’t need government nod to take cognisance of offence under CrPC.
  • ‘Five year’ clause for completion of project on acquired land will be augmented and amended by the length of the project. No acquisition will be transferred to private persons.
  • Under section 33 compulsory employment clause shall be inserted.
  • Land acquired for Hospitals, Educational Institutions and other Social Projects will not come under definition of Industrial Corridor.
  • Government to ensure before notification land acquired would be bare minimum required for a project.

The changes are in addition to the earlier amendments moved through an ordinance where the government had added five sectors (defence, rural infra, affordable housing, industrial corridors, infra and social infra projects including PPP) to a list that would not require owners’ consent while acquiring land as well as exempted them from submitting a social impact assessment (SIA) and removal of restriction on acquisition of multi-crop lands for these sectors. The last social infra projects including PPP have been removed from the exemption list.

The changes have managed to appease the allies to some extent, but questions remain whether the opposition is willing to relent as most of them walked out during the vote in the Lok Sabha. In the Rajya Sabha however it is a different story as the ruling NDA does not enjoy a majority and where the amended Bill is likely to be defeated by an united opposition. The earlier changes or removal of consent clause has been termed anti-farmer, though they are definitely industry-friendly, while removal of SIA will save costs and time both. The main point is that the process should be fair to both farmers as well as the industry.