The proposed Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill seeks to stipulate that a consensus of at least 80% of the land owners is required for any private project. The percentage becomes 70% if the land is to be developed under public private partnership. Any Government-undertaken project does not require such a consensus.
The proposed Bill further stipulates that if the land is being acquired for urbanization purposes, the Government needs to set aside 20% of the land for the person who is parting with the land. It also says that any unutilized land has to be returned to the land owner. These are certainly positives and in line with the larger purposes that the Bill seeks to address.
One point of doubt would be that the proposed Bill says that the provisions would be applied retrospectively if the award of compensation has not yet been made. By award of compensation, one would assume that the land owner has actually received the funds into his bank account.
If the land owner in question has not accepted or otherwise received payment, it does not count as award of compensation. The implication is that if the land owner has not received compensation for any reason at all, he can bargain for a higher price and thereby hold up the process and also contribute to further land inflation.
The Bill further states that the entire process of land acquisition and award of compensation needs to be completed within five years of date of proposal, else the transaction stands cancelled. While it all seems positive on the surface, the fact is that there is also potential for even more uncertainty in the process of land acquisition.
The idea of the Bill was to ensure that land owners get fair and timely compensation and also resettlement options. However, it would need further tweaking to ensure that there is no potential for land owners to drive up land prices in the bargain – which, in turn, would mean that the cost of the finished products also rises.