The Telegraph
Sunday , July 20 , 2014
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State fumes at coal area ‘headache’ Act

- Modi govt proposes to tweak land laws, Jharkhand wants more say for mining regions

Ranchi, July 19: The Narendra Modi government has indicated it may bring certain changes in last year’s much-talked about The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, leaving Jharkhand saddled with a fresh set of concerns unique to it.

In the state that has some of India’s richest mineral and coal reserves, the 2013 Act doesn’t have much significance as some 80 per cent of land acquired fall under the purview of Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, 1957.

Called the CBA Act, the state revenue and land reforms department terms it a headache because under it, the Centre can — and often does — peremptorily issue notices to acquire land, leaving Jharkhand bureaucrats to deal with the messy fallout of displacement, compensation and rehabilitation.

In many cases, the displaced don’t get compensation, with protest movements simmering and flaring up for decades.

“The Centre seems serious about making changes in the land Act. In this backdrop, we want the state to be given more powers under the CBA Act, 1957. By way of a simple notification, the Centre acquires land in and around coal mines under the 1957 Act. Provisions of PESA (The Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996), Forest Rights Act, among others get violated in the process,” principal secretary of revenue and land reforms department J.B. Tubid told The Telegraph.

Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari, who also got charge of rural development ministry in June after Gopinath Munde’s sudden death, held a meeting on land Act in June-end where Jharkhand was represented by Delhi-based resident commissioner Sanjay Kumar.

“The Centre knows about the state’s grievances in the land acquisition process,” Tubid said, referring mainly to CBA Act. “Our main concerns are whether provisions of state’s own rehabilitation policy are followed or not and whether locals are getting suitable employment. If displaced original settlers are disgruntled, it affects the industrial climate and overall harmony of the state,” he added.

However, the Narendra Modi government has not hinted so far that it would tinker with the CBA Act.

It is more concerned about changing clauses of the farmer and settler friendly Act introduced by the UPA government last year.

According to the 2013 Act, consent of 70 and 80 per cent of land-losers for PPP and private projects, respectively, is needed. This consent includes their agreeing to the compensation sum, a highly volatile issue.

However, the new government’s pro-industry changes are likely to address investor concerns such as rising costs of land acquisition and procedural delays in keeping with the Prime Minister’s aim of rolling out major infrastructure projects through the public-private partnership envisaged in Union finance minister Arun Jaitley’s budget.

CBA concerns apart, land acquisition is the single biggest hurdle in Jharkhand for most new or proposed mega industrial projects.

Projects held up due to issues related with land acquisition include highway widening (mainly Mahulia-Baharagora-Kharagpur-NH33, Barwadda-Aurangabad-NH-2) and a slew of steel and other projects proposed by ArcelorMittal, Tata Steel, JSPL, JSW and Hindalco, among others.