With the Centre putting its land acquisition Bill in cold storage, states are now taking the lead to seek an exemption from the 2013 Act passed by the previous UPA government to get around provisions such as land owners’ consent and social impact assessment.
While Tamil Nadu has moved ahead by amending a related Act, a senior official said other states keen to move in this direction include Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Assam and Karnataka. Assam and Karnataka are ruled by the Congress, which spearheaded the opposition to the BJP-led NDA government’s move to amend the 2013 Act.
Tamil Nadu amended the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 by inserting a new section — Section 105 — that exempts land acquisition for industrial purposes and highways from the provisions of the Centre’s land Act.
“Tamil Nadu has taken the lead. Other states such as Rajasthan had initiated changes, but put them on hold after the Centre itself moved an Ordinance,” said Arvind Panagariya, vice-chairman, NITI Aayog.
Panagariya has been a vocal proponent of the idea of states moving on their own to undertake necessary legal changes for easier land acquisition.
Sources in the government said at least a couple of other states have also proposed changes to the 2013 Act. “Maharashtra, Assam and Karnataka too are keen to push through changes in the 2013 Act of the Central government or bring new legislation specifically for infrastructure to get around the difficult provisions of consent and social impact assessment,” said the senior official, who did not wish to be named.
Andhra Pradesh too framed rules last October that allowed it to acquire land easily. For its new capital Amaravati, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu adopted a land-pooling mechanism to acquire some 32,000 acres from about 18,000 farmers.
“Andhra decided to return 25 per cent of the acquired land post development of the capital city to farmers besides providing for annuity payments for 10 years. This was a win-win deal for both the state and the farmers,” said a state government official.
The Rajasthan government had started work on its own land law last year as a way around the Centre’s land Act, but the Central government advised the state to put the process on hold since it was promulgating an Ordinance last December. “But now, the state will once again consider amendments after the Resurgent Rajasthan event scheduled in November,” said a source privy to the state’s economic agenda.
The move by states assumes significance as the NDA government’s efforts to amend the Land Acquisition Act had faced stiff opposition. With the Centre deciding not to repromulgate the ordinance to amend the land legislation, both Panagariya and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had advised states to frame their own Act with the Centre’s approval.
The view of having separate land laws across different states was reinforced after a meeting of the governing council of the NITI Aayog with chief ministers this July.
Under the 2013 Land Acquisition Act, except when the appropriate government acquires land for its own use, hold and control, acquisition is estimated to take at least four to five years and uncertainty with respect to eventual successful completion of acquisition remains.
The NDA government had repromulgated ordinances thrice in order to amend the Act, citing the need for a less time-consuming alternative for private or PPP projects in areas such as rural roads, affordable housing, infrastructure and building cities.
Under the Constitution, land acquisition is mentioned on the Concurrent List, although Article 254 (2) allows a state to amend a Central government act on the list provided the President approves it.