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Government allows ordinance on land bill to lapse

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The NDA government late on Friday evening issued an order, deciding to extend benefits like compensation as well as rehabilitation and resettlement for farmers whose lands have been acquired, under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act 2013, thus officially announcing that it will allow its ordinance on land acquisition to lapse on August 31, 2015, as first reported by The Asian Age on August 23.

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In other words, it has now officially decided to go by the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act 2013 (officially known as Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitati-on and Resettlement Act, 2013), which had been br-ought in by the Congress-led UPA government after repealing the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

This newspaper had exclusively reported that mindful of forthcoming Bihar Assembly elections, the government would allow its ordinance on land acquisition to lapse on August 31, which is its date of its expiry.

The vociferous protests against the ordinance promulgated by the NDA government by the Opposition led by the Congress, which termed its provisions as anti-farmer and the fact that Assembly polls in Bihar (a major agrarian state) are just two months away, forced the government to give up any plans of repromulgating it.

The order issued by the government on Friday said that benefits of 13 central acts like National Highway and Railways Acts (mentioned in Fourth Schedule of the 2013 Act) will be extended to those whose land is acquired under these provisions.

Though there were some confusing signals from the NDA government, which clearly looked divided fr-om within on whether the ordinance should be repromulgated or not, the order issued by it on August 28 laid all confusion to rest. The pressure of the forthcoming Bihar polls seems clearly evident on it.

The government, however, has tried to justify its decision of allowing the ordinance to lapse by pointing out that providing benefits of the 13 central acts to farmers formed a part of Section 105 of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. However, these provisions under the aforementioned section were to be initiated through a draft notification within one year from the date of the enactment of the act (whi-ch was January 1, 2014).

The order said that as the one year deadline to initiate the enactment of benefits of the 13 central acts was coming to an end on December 31, 2014, it decided to promulgate the ordinance to extend benefits of rehabilitation and resettlement to farmers whose lands were acquired under the aforementioned central acts.

But as is now well known, despite repromulgating the ordinance thrice, the provisions suggested by the NDA were strongly opposed by Congress and other parties and it had to be sent to the joint committee of Parliament.

Under the 2013 legislation, if land is to be acquired for a public-private partnership (PPP) project, or where the government is also involved, then 70 per cent consent of the farmers is required. However, if land is needed for a project which is wholly owned by a private entity, then in such a case 80 per cent consent would be needed from the farmers.

In addition to this, the UPA legislation also included a clause on social impact assessment of the land before it is acquired for any project, which was an essential clause in it.

The NDA Government, keen to promote its ambitious ‘Make In India’ campaign and ensuring ‘ease of doing business’ in the country, made changes in the legislation and first promulgated the ordinance on it on December 29, 2014.

The NDA’s ordinance had suggested doing away with the social impact assessment clause, which was opposed bitterly by the Congress.

The Joint Parliamentary panel too faced divided opinions between its members and was forced to seek several extensions to submit its final report on the contentious legislation. It was supposed to give its recommendations by the first week of the Winter session of Parliament, but with the Government now being forced to go back to the 2013 legislation, curtains now seem to have finally come down on the entire controversy.

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