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Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel. Photo: Mint
Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel. Photo: Mint

Gujarat clears amendments in land acquisition law that does away with ‘consent’ clause

The bill sidesteps the social impact assessment and consent clauses for acquisition of land for public purposes and industrial corridors

Ahmedabad: Moving away from the stringent provisions laid down in the centre’s Land Acquisition Act, 2013, the Gujarat state assembly on Thursday passed a bill that sidesteps the social impact assessment and consent clauses for acquisition of land for public purposes and industrial corridors.

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Gujarat Amendment) Bill 2016 was passed in the assembly in the absence of the opposition Congress MLAs, who were suspended for two days by the Speaker on Wednesday.

One of the key provisions of the bill introduced by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is doing away with social impact assessment (SIA) for projects related to defence and social sectors, such as building air base, defence manufacturing units, schools, roads, canals, affordable houses, etc. Another major change is that there will be no SIA before acquiring land for industrial corridors.

After coming to power in 2014, the Narendra Modi government brought in amendments to the Land Acquisition Act. However, Rajya Sabha, where the BJP and allies do not have a majority, has not cleared the bill. The Union government then dropped the idea of passing the bill in Rajya Sabha and instead asked states to suitably amend the law.

“Through this bill, we are doing away with the social impact assessment clause, as it consumes a lot of time. Further, it will not be necessary for the government to acquire consent of 80% affected parties if we are acquiring land for social and defence sectors," said state health minister and in-charge of revenue portfolio Nitin Patel, speaking on behalf of chief minister Anandiben Patel.

As per the original central Act, 80% of land owners must give their nod for the acquisition of land. The clause will, however, be applicable for acquisition related to industrial development.

“Gujarat is an industrially progressive state and more and more investment is coming to the state. The state government aims to provide all basic facilities and infrastructure to the entrepreneurs. However, it has been experienced that after coming into force of the said (central) Act, which has very stringent provisions for acquiring the land, land acquisition has become a very lengthy and difficult proposition," according to the statement of objects and reasons of the bill. The bill, it said, is aimed at making the land acquisition procedure smooth and easy, without interfering with the rights of the people whose land is acquired.

The new bill has made provision for insertion of Section 23A after Section 23, which essentially gives the district collector the power to decide on the matter of land acquisition and compensation amount without enquiry, with mutual consent of the parties.

Section 24(2) stipulated that in cases where land had been acquired under the provisions of Land Acquisition Act, 1894 but physical possession had not been taken or compensation had not been paid, then the proceedings were to be deemed to have lapsed and the matter would have to be started afresh under the provisions of this Act.

“The ordinance amends this provision by adding a proviso which essentially means that any delay on account of litigation (court mandated stay or injunction), or where the compensation amount lies unclaimed in the court or in any designated account maintained for this purpose, then such period will not be factored into the computation of the period of limitation," said Persis Ginwalla of Jameen Adhikar Aandolan Gujarat (JAAG), an organization that works on issues related to farmers’ land rights in Gujarat.

Section 23A has been inserted after Section 23, which essentially gives the district collector the power to decide on the matter of land acquisition and compensation amount without enquiry, with mutual consent of the parties.

“We severely condemn and oppose this absolutely anti-people and anti-farm piece of legislation. We demand that the amendments be dropped and the central LARR Act of 2013 be adopted in its place," Jinwalla said.

While presenting the bill in the assembly, Patel informed the members that as the principal Land Act is in the “concurrent" list, the state government can bring amendments in it through the bill.

He said the aim was to expedite the process of land acquisition for various social sector projects, such as building Narmada canals, affordable housing, bullet train project, rural infrastructure and other pro-people projects.

Apart from the social and defence sector projects, the bill proposes to exempt from SIA industrial corridors set up by the state government and its undertakings, where it is required to acquire land up to 1 km on both sides of a designated railway line or road.

Calling it anti-farmer, Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil said it was a clear attempt to nullify the real effect of the original law.

With inputs from PTI.

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