New Delhi: The rural development ministry on Monday made public the rules that explain the process of acquiring land under a new law—a step aimed at clarifying acquisition procedures to all stakeholders, including companies that had expressed reservations about certain sections of the legislation approved by Parliament last month.
The ministry has left to state governments to decide how much of multi-crop and agricultural land can be acquired as well as determine the threshold for private purchases, the crossing of which will make it mandatory for buyers to adhere to the provisions of the land acquisition law, which was signed by President Pranab Mukherjee on 27 September.
States have also been allowed to decide the “multiplier to be used for the calculation of compensation in rural areas”, the rules put up on the ministry’s website said. According to the law finally passed by Parliament on 5 September, compensation in rural areas has to be no less than four times the cost of land in rural areas.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 replaces an 1894 Act and seeks to strike a balance by providing fair compensation for the land acquired from farmers for industrial projects, but industry representatives fear the law will escalate land costs, hurting sectors like manufacturing.
In his two meetings with industry representatives since the draft law was approved, Minister of rural development Jairam Ramesh had assured companies that the rules or guidelines would clearly define the parameters for land acquistion as well as fix clear timelines for procedures like the social and environment impact assessments. There was no immediate comment from Indian industry. The rules will be online for two months for industry inputs and reactions, a ministry offiicial said.
According to the provisions of the law, the consent of 70% landowners is a must for land proposed to be acquired in any area for public purpose as part of a public-private partnership project. For land proposed to be acquired by a private company, prior consent of 80% of the affected land owners is compulsory.
“For the purposes of consent... land owners are defined as any person whose land or immovable property is to be acquired; and any person who has been assigned land by the state government or central government under any of its schemes,” the rules stipulate. This responds to a demand from Indian industry that the govenrment determine whether consent has to secured from only owners or from all those who derive their livelihood from the land.
“Consent procedures must be completed within six months of the notification of the social impact assessment. For large projects where acquisition is spread across multiple locations, consent must be sought in all the affected areas at the same time, in all the proposed areas,” the rules say -- in answer to industry demands that clear timelines be determined for all land acquisition procedures.
The rules also put the onus on the state governments to “take steps to resolve outstanding issues related to land rights, land titling and land records in the affected areas, so that all land owners can be correctly identified before initiating consent procedures.”
In the case of projects initiated by private companies, the presence of a company representaive is a “must” at all meetings of land owners to respond to any questions or clarifications sought by the affected land owners, according to the rules.
At the end of the meeting, “each individual land owner will be asked to indicate in a signed declaration whether he or she gives or withholds consent for the acquisition of land involved”, according to the rules explaining the consent clause. “Consent procedures must conclude within the stipulated time and will only be determined on the basis of the signed, written declarations of land owners,” it said.