New Delhi: Two new laws, proposed to regulate acquisition of private land for large industrial or non-technical projects, will take more time to clear Parliament than projected, a setback that could potentially delay large investment proposals, at least until July.
Both the Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) Policy, 2007 and an updated Land Acquisition Act are now being examined by a committee comprising members of Parliament. The discussion is likely to last through May, not leaving enough time for the Bills to be cleared by Parliament in the Budget session.
“The parliamentary standing committee on rural development is examining both Bills, and has invited public views now. Then, discussions will take place and (that) should be over sometime in May. They will then forward the Bills to Parliament, possibly with changes,” Union rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said last week.
Singh was part of a group of ministers that examined the R&R Policy while it was a draft and publicly available through 2006. The same group also examined the changes proposed in the new Land Acquisition Act. The amendment to this Act, if cleared, will allow the government to acquire land for projects, provided 70% of the land is first acquired by its developers.
Anticipating delay: Union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh.
Revisions to the Land Acquisition Act, which dates back to 1894, were cleared by the Union cabinet in October 2007 and introduced in Parliament during the winter session, which ended in December. Along with the R&R Policy, it was immediately referred to a standing committee. At the time, the government had assured that both Bills would be cleared by Parliament in the Budget session, which started Monday and closes on May 9.
In May, as per a provisional schedule put out by the ministry of parliamentary affairs, Parliament will have only six working days.
The next session will begin in July, by when both Bills may be ready, Singh said.
“An advertisement has been issued seeking comments and suggestions from the public. Presentations have also been invited from interested parties. Therefore, the process will take some time; it would not be proper to say how long,” said a Lok Sabha secretariat official.
The commerce ministry has adopted a policy of not acquiring land for private projects, including Special Economic Zones (SEZs), and has mandated that no such project should be larger than 5,000ha.
Lalit B, Singhal, director general of the Export Promotion Council for SEZs and Export Oriented Units, said,“If the laws take more time than expected, it would affect multi-product and sector-specific SEZs where, in patches of land, acquisition is not possible through consent, and government assistance will be needed.”
Throughout last year, the R&R Policy was delayed by political manoeuvring following violent protests in West Bengal and opposition in other states. The new policy has detailed rules to determine entitlement to relocation benefits, including land for land in some cases. The protests were mostly against projects that involved acquiring farm land. The changed acquisition Act prohibits taking over land being farmed, provided more than one crop is being sown.