The Narendra Modi-government today decided to ease the land acquisition process through an emergency order, in a move meant to accelerate stalled projects worth billions of dollars.
"The changes in Land Acquisition Act have been done after extensive consultations with states,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said while announcing the decision.
Jaitley said the rules will be relaxed for acquisition of land in five areas—defence purposes, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and housing projects for the poor, industrial corridors, and infrastructure or social infrastructure projects, including those in public-private projects in which ownership of land will remain with the government.
While the compensation will remain high as per the act, and rehabilitation and resettlement will be followed, the procedure for acquiring land for these projects will be easier by omitting steps like social impact assessment, impact on food security, and consent of 80 per cent land owners, he added.
NDTV reported that the governments plans to clear the ordinance by the next parliamentary session in February.
The Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which was enacted under the Manmohan Singh government, requires 70 percent of the land-owning community to give consent to allow acquisition for public-private partnership projects. Eighty percent consent is required for private sector projects.
Public-private partnership projects account for 60 percent of the stalled projects worth Rs18 lakh crore in rail, steel, mining and roads, the Business Standard reported.
In an interview with HuffPost India, Congress Party leader Manish Tewari slammed the ordinance. "The first thing that this government has done, at the behest of its capitalist friends, is send out a message to the farmers of this country that this is government is for the corporates and by the corporates and that is their primary constituency," he said.
The Modi government has used the ordinance route, an executive order meant to be used sparingly in emergencies, three times in the past six months since coming to power.
In a press release, National Alliance of People's Movements said the decision to approve the ordinance "is completely unacceptable and reminds us of the anti-democratic and authoritarian streak of this government."
Kanchi Kohli from the Kalpavriksh Environment Group said that the ordinance route was “undoing democratic processes” because the parliament under the Congress Party-led government had passed the consent clause.
Kohli said that conducting social impact studies and gathering the consent of communities takes time, but these procedures are “critical” to living in a democracy. “Investors have to take the time to do this,” she said.
Arvind Kejriwal, head of the Aam Aadmi Party, tweeted against the ordinance on Monday evening.
What is the urgency to pass ordinance on land acquisition? Some of the provisions of ordinance are against farmers(1/2)— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) December 29, 2014
I spoke to delhi's villagers. They are strongly opposed to the ordinance. AAP stands wid them in its opposition(2/2)— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) December 29, 2014