ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Amendment to the LARR Act, 2013 and the Aspirations of the Rural Youth of India

India replaced its century-old Land Acquisition Act, 1894 with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. A recent attempt by the government to amend this act to exempt certain sectors from social impact assessment studies and taking consent of landowners before acquiring land is based on the assumption that the landowners in general are opposed to compulsory purchases. This assumption is questionable as landowners of peri-urban locations are generally willing to give land for development projects and the younger generation is unwilling to continue with farming as a livelihood.

The authors are immensely grateful to Sudas Roy (who retired from Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta) for valuable comments on the manuscript, and to an anonymous referee for detailed comments.

In post-independence India the Land Acquisition Act (LAA), 1894 was amended twice, once in 1962 and again in 1984. But it could not meet the aspirations of the high-growth post-liberalisation era. For faster economic growth, land was required for rapid infrastructure growth and industrialisation. China’s economic growth during the late 20th century drew international attention and applause. India wanted to emulate China’s special economic zone (SEZ) policy for faster growth. In 2005, the United Progressive Alliance government passed the SEZ Act, whose rules came into operation in 2006. The objective was to boost exports and economic growth. But in reality, this was used to grab land quickly and at cheap prices for the lucrative housing sector, especially on the urban fringe (Chakravorty 2013: 118). This added fuel to the already blazing fire. “Nearly 200 SEZ (special economic zones) were sanctioned and many of them close to major cities. More than half are being developed by Real Estate Companies” (Mallikarjuna 2014: 56), raising suspicion of making “a quick buck by grabbing land at cheap prices under SEZ Land Acquisition Act” (Mallikarjuna 2014: 56). Land buyers could be the public or private sectors, but formal land acquisition was to be undertaken by government authorities. This had put the state and the landowners on a collision course whenever there was a need for land for private or public projects. The protest movement in Nandigram (West Bengal) where 14 protesters died in police firing drew national and international attention. Around the same time the protest movements over Maha Mumbai SEZ, Vedanta land in Odisha, and Tata’s Singur land hogged the news headlines. The demand to scrap the LAA, 1894 gained momentum. Quick reach and constant scrutiny by electronic and print media spread public awareness, making eviction politically more difficult to execute.

Resistance movements at Singur and Nandigram were the tipping points that led to the end of 34 years of Left Front rule in West Bengal. The strength of the rural backlash became apparent. This brought urgency to changing the century-old Land Acquisition Act. Land Acquisition Bills (Amendment Bill 2007, which lapsed for not being taken up in the Rajya Sabha) or the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011 which was lying dormant, suddenly occupied centre stage. With heightened political compulsion, the LAA, 1894 was replaced by Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013. This bill has made rehabilitation and resettlement of the evicted population a part of the act itself. Compensation amount was quadrupled for agriculture lands. With the Parliament election in sight, the pro-farmer land acquisition bill could muster support of almost all the major political parties. The act was made operational from 1 January 2014 but the story did not end there. Within six months of the new act in place, there were demands for amendments, citing cumbersome procedural requirements causing delay in the process of acquisition.

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Updated On : 16th Aug, 2018
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