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Land Acquisition and related concerns in India

  • 01 November, 2021

  • 5 Min Read

Context: This topic is important for UPSC GS Paper 2.

Since land is a scarce resource in a populated country like India, the government has formulated certain provisions, rules and guidelines, to facilitate infrastructure development in areas where the land is privately owned, or being used for agricultural purposes. Known as the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, this law replaced the archaic Land Acquisition Act, 1894, to bring in a new procedure, which would grant fair compensation to those affected.

What is land acquisition?

  • It is a process by which the government (state or union) can acquire private land for the purpose of infrastructure development, urbanisation or industrialisation.
  • In return, the government will pay a suitable compensation to the land owner, as per the market value and would be responsible for the rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected land owners.

What is the Land Acquisition Act, 2013?

  • It is also known as, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, regulates and governs the entire process.
  • The Act chalks out the provision for providing fair remuneration to the land owners, bringing transparency to the system and directs the government to rehabilitate those who are most affected, because of their land being taken away.

Aims and objectives of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013

  • To ensure a transparent process for acquiring land, in consultation with all the stakeholders and local governing bodies.
  • To ensure minimum displacement of the existing population, owning or staying on the land.
  • To provide fair compensation to the families who are affected or whose land has been acquired or livelihood has been affected, because of the land acquisition.
  • To provide adequate provision for rehabilitation and resettlement of the families affected.

Provisions and purpose of land acquisition

As per the Act, the government of India (state, as well as central) can procure land for its own use or for public sector companies or for ‘public purpose’, which can include any of these:

  • For any work related to state or national security or defence services of India, which includes naval, military, air force or other armed forces, under the purview of the state or central government.
  • For building public infrastructure but excluding private hospitals, private educational institutional and private hotels.
  • For any project involving agriculture or allied industries, such as dairy, fisheries or meat processing, owned by the government or by farmer’s cooperatives.
  • For industrial corridors, manufacturing zones or other projects listed in the National Manufacturing Policy. This can also include mining activities.
  • For water harvesting, conservation structure projects or for planned development or improvement of village sites.
  • For government-aided educational and research institutions.
  • For planned development, such as creating housing projects for the weaker sections, in rural or urban areas.
  • For developing residential projects for the poor or landless, or for people affected by natural calamities.

Importance of consent under Land Acquisition Act

Importance of consent requirement under Land Acquisition Act

When the government acquires land for public purposes and controls the land bank directly, the land owners’ consent is not a necessity. However, when the land is acquired for setting up private companies, the consent of at least 80% of the affected families is mandatory. If the project is undertaken through a public-private partnership, then, 70% of the affected families have to give their consent for the acquiring land process.

Compensation under the Land Acquisition Act

  • Section 26 of the Act that deals with compensation for the land owners. It outlines the proposed minimum compensation, based on multiples of the market value. Usually, the market value is multiplied by a factor of one of two times, for land acquired in rural and urban areas.

  • The market value of the land is determined by the average sale price for similar types of land situated in the nearest village or nearest vicinity area. This sale price is assessed, by considering one-half of the total number of sale deeds or the agreements to sell, in which the highest price has been mentioned.

  • The compensation can also be a consented amount, in case the land is acquired for private companies or public-private partnership projects.

Shortcomings of Land Acquisition Act

The land Acquisition Act, 2013, was amended in 2015 which resulted in the following shortcomings:

  • The Social Impact Assessment was a must for every acquisition in the Act but the mandatory requirement was removed for security, defence, rural infrastructure and industrial corridor projects in the amendment.

  • Consent is not mandatory for government projects in the latest amendment. This can result in forceful evictions of land owners, without proper alternate arrangements for their rehabilitation and resettlement.

  • Earlier, multi-cropped land could not be acquired for any purpose but according to the latest amendment, even multi-crop irrigated land can be acquired for security and social infrastructure projects.

  • It leads to the issue of displacement of locals and even at times cut across ecological sensitive and biodiverse region.

Central Public Works Department

The Central Public Works Department of India commonly referred to as the CPWD, is a premier Central Government authority in charge of public sector works.

The Central Public Works Department, under the Ministry of Urban Development now MoHUA (Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs), deals with buildings, roads, bridges, flyovers, complicated structures like stadiums, auditoriums, laboratories, bunkers, border fencing, border roads (hill roads), etc.

CPWD came into existence in July 1854 when Lord Dalhousie established a central agency for execution of public works and set up Ajmer Provincial Division. It has now grown into a comprehensive construction management department, which provides services from project conception to completion, and maintenance management.

It is headed by the Director General (DG) who is also the Principal Technical Advisor to the Government of India.

CPWD consists of three wings in execution field-

1) B&R (Buildings and Roads)

2) E&M (Electrical and Mechanical)

3) Horticulture

Following are the core functions of CPWD

  • Design, construction and maintenance of Central Government non- residential buildings other than those for Railways, Communications, Atomic Energy, Defence Services, All India Radio, Doordarshan and Airports (IAAI & NAA).

  • Construction and maintenance of residential accommodation meant for Central Government Employees.

  • Construction works for Central Armed Police Force(Erstwhile Paramilitary) i.e. CRPF, CISF, BSF, and ITBP as well as maintenance of assets of CRPF and CISF assigned to CPWD.

  • Construction works for establishments under the Cabinet Secretariat i.e. SSB, SIB etc.

  • Construction works for public sector undertakings not having their engineering organization, other Government Organisations, Autonomous bodies and institutions as deposit work. “Deposit Works” are such works, which are undertaken at the discretion of the Director General, CPWD for which the outlay is provided wholly or in part from

    • a) Funds of a public nature but not included in the financial estimates and accounts of the Union of India.

    • b) Contributions from the public.

  • Providing consultancy services in planning, designing and construction of civil engineering projects, as and when required by public undertaking and other autonomous bodies.

  • Construction of Embassy and other buildings / projects abroad at the request of Ministry of External Affairs and other Ministries.

  • Defence / Security related works assigned by the government such as border fencing & flood lighting works and Indo China Border Road Works (ICBR).

  • Construction of roads under PMGSY and RSVY programme. To undertake works under PPP/Alternate Funding mode.

Editorial: When can land use of allotted plots be amended?

What does the government affidavit claim on the changes? How will the space be utilised?

The story so far:

  • The Supreme Court is hearing a petition challenging the change of land use of a plot near Rashtrapati Bhavan, initially allotted for a recreational park and bus terminal, to residential.

  • The plot, according to the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), will be the site of the new Vice-President’s Enclave, which will include the residence and office of the Vice-President.

  • In an affidavit, the Central Government informed the court that the plot had housed government offices for decades and had never been opened for the public or sported recreational space.

How has the land use been changed?

  • On October 28, 2020, the government notified the change in use of the 15-acre plot, called Plot No. 1, on Church Road near Rashtrapati Bhavan and North Block.

  • The plot is proposed to be the site of a new residence and office space for the Vice-President, as a part of the larger Central Vista revamp project. The plot had been allocated for “transportation (bus terminal/parking) and “government (President Estate and Parliament House) use in the masterplan of Delhi-2021 and further in the Zonal Development Plan as transportation as well as recreational (neighbourhood play area)”.

  • With the 2020 notification, the land use of the plot was changed to “residential”. The plot has had offices of the Ministry of Defence since pre-Independence. With two new MoD buildings outside the Central Vista being completed recently, defence personnel have begun shifting from the hutments on this plot as well as others along the Central Vista.

What are the rules on recreational areas in the land acts?

Section 11-A of the Delhi Development Act, 1957, gives the “Central Government” the authority to “make any modifications to the masterplan or the zonal development plan”. This section was cited when the Delhi Development Authority published a notice inviting objections and suggestions regarding the then-proposed land-use change on March 4, 2020. As many as 90 submissions were received and “considered” before the change was notified in October.

The plot is owned by the Land & Development Office, under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, which is executing the project through the CPWD.

Why does the amendment matter?

The government has said the change was required for it to go ahead with its plan to build the Vice-President’s Enclave, for which the CPWD invited bids and shortlisted construction agencies in October. Financial bids have been invited till November 2. The CPWD has proposed construction of three of the nine office buildings planned as the new Central Secretariat on the site of the current Vice-President’s residence on Maulana Azad Road. The government has argued the plots occupied by hutments are under-utilised.

What lies ahead?

The CPWD submitted its affidavit on October 28, and hearing the matter the next day, the Supreme Court gave the petitioner time to file a rejoinder. It adjourned the matter till November 16. The CPWD has said the petition is misconceived and liable to be dismissed with costs. It said overall the space open to the public in the Central Vista would increase with the shifting of Ministries from the 27-acre North Block and South Block, which are to be converted into “national museums”.

Way Forward

The acquiring land should not be based on whims and fancies of the Government rather should consider the local needs and ecology. Social impact assessment must be mandatorily undertaken. Infrastructure Development is important to meet the idea of  “NEW INDIA”, for which land acquisition becomes imperative but should follow the idea of collective consensus and inclusiveness.

Source: The Hindu

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