Ruling Class

Changes in the new land acquisition ordinance only to fool the people – Bhalachandra

Narendra Modi Govt. is trying to sell its new Ordinance on Land Acquisition saying that it has accommodated the concerns of peasant organizations and opposition parties. However, Modi Govt. has only made cosmetic changes for the purpose of fooling the people while continuing of the substantive changes to serve the interests of foreign and domestic corporate, for the exploitation and plunder of the natural resources of the country. Obviously the peasant organizations opposing the amendment ordinance have condemned these tricks of Narendra Corporate Modi Govt. and continue to oppose the Ordinance.
In the original act of 2013 there was a provision for the determination of social impact and public purpose before any land acquisition for a project. The Act makes it mandatory that for land acquisition for public purpose that the government “Shall consult the local Panchayat or Municipal Corporation as the case may be and carry out Social Impact Assessment Study in consultation with them”. The notification for consultation and social impact assessment shall be made available in local language to the Panchayat, Municipality or Municipal Corporation. But on the contrary, the first Ordinance states that these provisions will not apply for five broad categories of projects. Thus the Ordinance does away with the Social Impact Assessment and right of consent of the people to be displaced which were central to the 2013 Act.
The amendment in the first ordinance would mean that social impact assessment, food security assessment and consent of 80% (in case of private companies) and 70% (in case of PPP projects) of land owners will not be required before acquiring land for projects like defense, industrial corridors, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and any infrastructure including social infrastructure in PPP mode.
But after facing pressure from different quarters the Modi Govt in its latest ordinance in the name of addressing the issue only tried to fool the people once again. Instead of restoring the SEA provision it has only said to receive the reference of the effected people under section 64 and after giving notice of all such references to all parties concerned will hold the hearing in the district where the land acquisition takes place.
Similarly instead of restoring the provision of taking consent of 70% and 80% land owners in land acquisition for PPP and private owned infrastructure projects the Govt in its latest ordinance has said, “The land shall be acquired up to one Km on both side of the designated railway line or roads for such industrial corridor.”
Facing criticism about the acquisition of multi crop land this new ordinance has inserted “The appropriate Govt shall before the issue of the notification ensure the extent of land for the proposed acquisition keeping in view the bare minimum land is required for such projects. The appropriate Govt shall undertake a survey of its waste land including the arid land and maintain a record containing the details of such land in such manner as may be prescribed by the appropriate Govt”. This is nothing but to hoodwink the people and it has not barred the acquisition of agricultural land particularly the multi crop land.
Regarding the liability of the government officials committing offence in the process of land acquisition Section 87 of the 2013 Act, it was provided that (i) “Wherever an offence under this Act has been committed by any department of the Government, the head of the department shall be deemed guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly”. Section 87(ii) states that “Where any offence under this Act has been committed by a Department of the Government and it is proved that the offence has been committed with the consent or connivance of, or is attributable to any neglect on the part of any officer, other than the head of the department, such officer shall also be deemed to be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly”. But in the first Ordinance this has been substituted by “Where an offence under this Act has been committed by any person who is or was employed in the Central Government or the state Government, as the case may be, at the time of commission of such alleged offence, no court shall take cognizance of such an offence except with the previous sanction of the appropriate Government”. Through this amendment the Govt. has tried to protect the officials who commit offence in land acquisition in connivance with the corporate houses. In the latest Ordinance Modi Govt. has resorted to trickery by substituting the italicized part with the following, “…. the Court shall take cognizance of such offence provided the procedure laid down in Section 197 of Criminal Procedure Code 1973 is followed.” The said Section 197 requires previous sanction of the Govt. in such cases. The servility to corporate interests could not be more blatant and shameless.
Other anti-peasant aspects of the first Ordinance have been retained in the latest Ordinance. This Ordinance is an all out attack against peasants and the country which must be opposed by all patriotic, democratic, progressive and revolutionary organizations.