Minister for Rural Development Mr Jairam Ramesh has announced that the draft rules, procedures and guidelines of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act 2013 will be placed in the public domain in the next week or so. Speaking at the National Council meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi on Friday, the Minister said that as earlier, a consultative and participative approach would be adopted in finalizing the rules, and comments and feedback on the Act would be invited for 45 days. The Act would be notified after finalization either on January 1, 2014 or April 1, 2014. “We will work with industry in drafting the rules for the Act,” he emphasized.
Mr S Gopalakrishnan, President, CII complimented the Minister on bringing clarity to a complex issue. He further voiced the concerns of industry regarding possible procedural delays in implementation of the Land Bill at a time when growth rate was already subdued. Stressing on the need for modernization of land records, he said, “Industry feels that that sections of the Act may need to be discussed at a later stage based on feedback on their implementation.”
Mr Ramesh responded that a permanent rules advisory committee, consisting of all stakeholders including land-owners, civil society and industry, was envisaged to review implementation of the law on a regular basis. Tracing the need for the new Act, the Minister said that it was based on four main components viz. consent of land-owners, compensation, resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) and procedures. The Act has laid out detailed sections in order to make land acquisition by Government transparent rather than open its provisions to interpretation and discretion.
Reassuring industry, he stated that time-lines for procedures were clearly delineated in the Act and penalties would be invited for any delays. Some procedures could run concurrently and would be completed in about 36-42 months. He also announced that Government would shortly be completing mapping of land to identify wasteland and barren tracts through the National Remote Sensing Agency and would be making this information available for public use.
Clarifying the issue of consent, the Minister confirmed that consent of 80 per cent of land-losers would be required in cases of land acquisition by Government for private companies and 70 per cent in case of public-private partnership (PPP) projects. The compensation would be based on circle rates as well as average of top prices for proximate land parcels of last three years, whichever is higher, leaving no room for confusion. Similarly, the Minister stated, R&R provisions would begin but need not be completed before the land acquisition process commenced.
Moreover, R&R would be conducted by state governments as per thresholds set by them and private companies would only need to deposit the R&R entitlements with the state government. The retrospective clause would be applicable only in the three cases mentioned in the Act, clarified Mr Ramesh.
Mr B Muthuraman, Past President, CII and Vice Chairman, Tata Steel, observed, “Industry welcomes the coverage of the Act for acquiring land for private sector.” He raised the issues of consent from four-fifths of land owners, return of unused land after five years, lengthy procedures, and retrospective applicability of the Act. Other suggestions made by corporate captains included use of land under possession of Central and State Governments, the need for industry to work with 28 State Governments for drafting rules, and controlling spurious speculation driving up land costs.
The Minister assured India Inc. that nothing in the law should discourage private sale and purchase of land.