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The Big Picture – Land act ordinance: Will it stand scrutiny?


The decision of the NDA government to amend certain provisions of the land acquisition act through an ordinance is witnessing increasing opposition. Most of the opposition parties are opposing this move.

The ordinance aims at expediting the acquisition for industrial projects. The amendments in the Act brought through the ordinance would ensure higher compensation to land owners while fulfilling developmental needs of the nation.

The opposition is against both the ordinance route and its provisions. While the government has asserted that this is expected to meet the strategic and developmental needs of the country and will help the larger section of the farmers. The opposition have slammed the move as it also exempts Social Impact Assessment. This is seen as a anti- farmer move.

The land acquisition act of 1894 was created with the purpose of facilitating acquisition by the government of privately held land for public purposes. Under the colonial LAA, private interest, rather than public purpose, dictated the land acquisition process. People affected by land acquisition received a pittance by way of compensation.

The 2013 act was meant to be a Humane and ethical law. The purpose of this law was to promote participatory governance and give farmers a say in the whole process.

Section 105 of the earlier Act, provided that the government could issue a notification and direct ‘any’ provision of the Act relating to compensation or R&R (Resettlement & Rehabilitation) would be made applicable to the exempted Acts.

The present ordinance provides that the farmers would get higher compensation if land is acquired under any of the exempted laws. It goes a step further than the 2013 act itself.

Some people say that the Ordinance subverts the crucial distinction between public-versus private purposes. It widens the scope of private purpose acquisitions. Now, land can be acquired by force for a large set of private projects, including private projects in health, tourism, cold storage sectors and SEZs. For these and many other private projects, land can be acquired even without consulting the affected people. Moreover, the definitions of exempted categories are subject to the discretion of the government and can be relaxed further.