India's Land Acquisition law: changes and trends (2014 onwards..)

The amendments to the India’s Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act 2013 (hereinafter referred to as RFCLARR, for short) have been in the news ever since the new government came into power in India in May 2014. The controversy heightened in December 2014 when the government issued an ordinance bringing forth critical changes to the law, made applicable with immediate effect. Foremost in this, were exemptions from consent and social impact assessment (SIA) related clauses for wide range of industrial and infrastructure projects (See here and here).

Since then, the amendments to the RFCLARR Act have been pushed through the both by an ordinance route and also by a Bill introduced in the Parliament. It has seen serious political debates, street protests and litigation in the Supreme Court of India (See here, here and here). This is because both the ordinance (issued three times) and Bill bring in exceptions to the projects for which consent and SIA clauses would be applicable; diluted the clauses allowing for repatriation of unused land and other important amendments which go against the very objectives of the law (See here and here).

The RFCLARR was passed in 2013, overhauling the colonial, oft referred to as draconian Land Acquisition Act of 1894. Important aspects of the 2013 reform was:

• Bringing together the processes of acquisition as well as R&R, which had not been the case earlier.
• Establishing in its preambular text principles of “ humane, participative, informed and transparent process”; “least disturbance to the owners of the land and other affected families” and “providing just and fair compensation.” • Expanding the definition of public purpose to include acquisition for private sector projects (when land continues to be vested with the government).

Other important provisions of the RFCLARR Act of 2013 are: • Consent of 80% of the land owners for private project and 70 % for public private partnership projects before any acquistion. • Introduction of Social Impact Assessments to determine public purpose, ascertain affected people as well as inform R&R. • Limitations on irrigated multi crop land to be acquired only as a last priority beyond a limit specified by the government. • If land acquired remains unutilised for five years from taking possession, it must be returned to the original owners or a land bank. • Calculating compensations based on market value of land as baseline (formula for both urban and rural areas and including additional values and solatium costs).

While several people’s movements had welcomed these changes; some state governments, industrial associations and the present central government stated that the 2013 law would delay acquisitions and thereby economic “development.” What followed was a tussle between the new government trying to get the amendments through the Parliament and the opposition parties, farmers unions, civil society groups and activists trying to stop these changes from taking affect.

When consensus could not be arrived at in the Parliament, a 30 members joint parliamentary committee (JPC) was formed to look into the amendments to The RFCLARR Act, 2013. @manjumenon and @kanchikohli made two formal submissions and also deposed as witnesses before the committee with analysis and specific suggestions. The committee is yet to submit its final report to the partliament but is has said to recommended that SIA and consent related clauses be retained in the law (See: here and here).

For now, the government has agreed to not re-promulgate the ordinance keeping in mind the widespread opposition to the amendments, especially from farmers groups and as the report of the JPC also awaited (See here).

The third ordinance on the RFCLARR, lapsed on 31st August, 2015. Just days before the government passed an executive order dated 29th August 2015 which can be accessed here). With this the provisions of compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement in the RFCLARR are to be made applicable to 13 other central Acts under which land acquisition takes place in India. The 2013 law had also provided for such a decision to notified within one year of the act being in place. But this was to be done after determining which of the RFCLARR clauses would be more “beneficial” and not replace any better provisions already existing in these 13 laws. Some of these legislations are The Land Acquisition (Mines) Act, 1885, The Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, 1957, National Highways Act, 1956 etc. (See: here and here).

Other than this one change, all other provisions of the 2013 law (some of which are discussed earlier) are in place and to be implemented as on date. The issue might come to light once again when the JPC submits its report, which will be tabled in the winter session of the Parliament, later this year.

Look forward to your thoughts, insights and responses on the debate. Kanchi

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Dear friends,

There are some important developments to India’s land acquisition law. Following the decision to defer/delay the proposed to the RFCLARR, 2013 law discussed in the earlier post, the government has now issued a set of Rules to operationalise the law: http://dolr.nic.in/dolr/downloads/pdfs/RFCTLARR%20(Compensation,%20RR,%20Development%20Plan)%20Rules%202015.pdf. This tends to confirm for now that the government has gone through with the implementation of the law for now, without pushing for the proposed amendments through an ordinance route. The parliamentary committee is yet to finalise its recommendations on the proposals: http://news.niticentral.com/2015/12/23/term-of-joint-panel-on-land-acquisition-bill-extended/ and more news will emerge if they submit their report before the next parliament session.

At the same time there are high profile cases underway where farmers are exercising the repatriation and higher compensation clauses of this law (which were proposed to be diluted) to get judicial remedies. See: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/why-all-eyes-are-on-this-land-case/. The outcomes of this case might have a significant bearing on the future use of this clause in several other cases being pursued mainly through the court system. My blog explaining these clauses and their potential as part of the Communities and Legal Action series is here: http://blog.mylaw.net/my-land-is-lying-unused-can-i-have-it-back-how-to-initiate-repatriation-under-the-2013-land-acquisition-law/

Our earlier article on this issue by @manjumenon and @kanchikohli are here: http://scroll.in/article/711564/ignore-the-tv-debates-land-acquisition-is-not-in-national-interest-its-a-contest-for-power

Look forward to hearing from you and exchanging e-notes on similar developments in different contexts around the world. best wishes Kanchi

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for anyone interested in the update on India’s land acquisition and R&R law discussed in this thread, here is an update. The Parliamentary committee which had sought inputs last year and was discussing the amendments has sought yet another extension which has been granted. See news item: http://www.firstpost.com/india/parliamentary-panel-gets-sixth-extension-on-land-bill-after-many-states-failed-to-furnish-vital-details-2678398.html?utm_source=FP_CAT_LATEST_NEWS. The report is now to be submitted before the monsoon session of the Indian parliament, in July-August 2016.

Meanwhile, several state governments have begun finalising their own Rules to implement the law.

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Hello all,

Even though the fate of the amendments brought to the Act by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, through a series of ordinances, currently rests with the Joint Parliamentary Committee report, several states have already brought about changes through Rules under Section 109 of the Act.

Read the full working paper produced by the CPR-Namati Environmental Justice Program on the dilutions made to the central law of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, over a period of two years.

This paper attempts to trace and analyse how the state governments have modified and built upon the central Act, and especially at how they have diluted the applicability of progressive clauses like consent, Social Impact Assessment (SIA), food security provisions, clear compensation related provisions, as well as clauses which allow for unused land to be returned to original owners.

@namati_staff

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Thank you so much Kanchi and Meenakshi, This is highly relevant to our work in Myanmar as the new government has started work on drafting a replacement to the Land Acquisition Act. Best, Tim

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Dear friends,

It has been close to a year since the last post in this thread; and we wish that the developments were positive.

The CPR-Namati EJ Program has been following the process closely at national and state levels in India. Our recent analysis, available in this paper indicates: Even as the Joint Parliamentary Committee’s report on the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RFCTLARR) is awaited, several states have already brought about changes that severely compromise the scope of clauses related to consent, Social Impact Assessment (SIA), food security and higher compensations. These changes also restrict the applicability of the 2013 law at state level.

Full details are available in the updated occasional paper titled "Mapping dilutions in India’s 2013 Land Acquisition Law" by the @debayangupta and @kanchikohli.

@manjumenon @debayangupta and @kanchikohli also did a follow up article where we try and understand whether State-Level Changes to Land Laws, a Return to Land Grabbing in Development’s Name. Your thoughts on this will be very welcome. We try and understand:

“Land grabbing is the term that has been used to describe land acquisition post the 1990s as the appetite for land speculation among investors grew and acquisitions acquired a more brutal character with the state using its police machinery to quell any efforts of farmers to protect their lands. Seen in this light, the LARR is a means of generating some degree of consensus among landholders to part with their land. But the Act is hardly only all good clauses. It included in the problematic phrase “public purpose” even private projects designed and implemented to generate corporate profits.”

As many of you would know that the exercise of such eminent domain powers of the state does not just pose challenges in rural areas, vulnerable urban communities are equally if not more impacted. In a recent article, we try and explore how the state can become an agent of dehousing. In this article, amongst other things what is highlighted is scholar Shweta Wagh’s careful documentation of over 25 community housing areas in Mumbai city which:

“shows that rather than the resident’s need to improve their housing, it is the value of the premium lands that drives the city’s development planning. Poor residents of the city have been displaced, rendered squatters or have had to watch their homes being razed to the ground.”

We are keen to hear your thoughts and also learn from experience in other countries.

@namati_myanmar what stage of finalisation is the land acquisition law in Myanmar?

Look forward to our responses and discussions thereafter.

@namati_staff

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