The Telegraph
Thursday , June 19 , 2014
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Land law changes on cards

New Delhi, June 18: The NDA government is planning to bring amendments to the land acquisition law to speed up road projects being executed in partnership with private investors.

Rural development minister Nitin Gadkari today told a television channel that several states had expressed reservations about the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, which lays down a three-layer takeover procedure.

According to the law, the district administration concerned has to conduct a social impact assessment within six months of a project being envisaged to find out the number of persons to be affected and the total land required.

If it is a public-private partnership (PPP) project, the government will have to take the consent of 70 per cent of land-losers. For private projects with public interest, 80 per cent of land-losers have to give their consent. This process would take another six months, after which the government will pay the compensation to the affected families and acquire the land.

Gadkari, who is also the transport minister, is worried about road projects stuck because of the provisions of the acquisition law. “We will discuss (the acquisition act) with the states and, after I have considered their suggestions, I will take them to the Prime Minister. We will go by his decision,” he told the channel.

“Within 20 days... we will come to a conclusion because this is the issue which is related with the future development of this country.”

The timeline of almost a year — six months for the social impact assessment and another six for taking consent — is something the government wants to bring down. The maximum time should be six months, at least for road projects, sources in the ministry said.

Another amendment being planned is to dilute the consent provision, at least for PPP projects. Road projects are mainly implemented in PPP mode. Since seeking written consent of 70 per cent of land-losers is a gigantic task, the ministry would like to bring it down, though it is not clear to what extent. Gadkari has said road projects worth Rs 60,000 crore are stuck in legal disputes.

There are certain exemptions for linear projects like road, railway and electricity lines in the existing act. For example, while the law says multi-crop land cannot be acquired, linear projects have been exempted.

The new law came into effect from January 2014, replacing a 120-year-old act. Parliament had passed the law in the winter session when the UPA was in power.