System of Government
Union Territories and Special Areas
|PART VIIConstitutional Bodies
| PART VIII
Other Constitutional Dimensions
Working of the Constitution
|Appendix I Articles of the Constitution (1–395) Download|
|Appendix II UPSC Questions on Indian Polity (General Studies—Mains) Download|
|Appendix III UPSC Questions on Indian Polity (General Studies–Prelims) Download|
|Appendix XII Practice Questions on Indian Polity (General Studies—Prelims)Download|
Land bill passed in Lok Sabha On 10th March 2015
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015, popularly known as the land bill, was adopted by the Lok Sabha after debating it for two days.
Congress and Biju Janata Dal walked out ahead of the voting, to protest the removal of a clause that makes it mandatory to get farmers’ consent prior to the acquisition of land by the government.
Government made nine amendments to bill, all of them were adopted. Lok Janshakti Party extended support to the Bill.
While the government accepted Opposition’s proposal of compulsory employment to at least one member of an affected family of a ‘farm labourer’, amendments to consent clause and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) were rejected.
Key developments in reverse chronological order
The House has been adjourned. It will meet at 11 am tomorrow.
Land acquisition bill has been passed in Lok Sabha through voice vote. Nine amendments have been adopted. Congress walks out.
Food insecurity acts
The Shanta Kumar Committee’s recommendations to unbundle the Food Corporation of India are in tune with U.S.-led demands raised in the World Trade Organization
The Shanta Kumar Committee report, released last week, on a range of issues relating to procurement, storage and distribution of food grains is not only deeply flawed in its reading of the situation on food security, but also short on facts. It was prepared under the guidance of the Prime Minister’s Office.
For example, the report asserts that only six per cent of all farmers have benefited from Minimum Support Price (MSP) through sale of food grains to an official procurement agency, according to data of the National Sample Survey Organisation’s 70th round. But analysts have found discrepancies between the survey’s estimates of the food grains sold to official procurement agencies and the actual amount of grains procured by official agencies for that year.
For kharif, the NSSO survey estimates that 13 million tonnes were sold to a procurement agency while the actual procurement that year by government agencies was 34 million tonnes. For rabi, the gap is even larger: 10 million tonnes estimated in the survey while the actual amount procured by an official agency was 38 million tonnes.
Selling at distress prices
Why did the Shanta Kumar Committee overlook these possible underestimates? Was it just to arrive at the sensational figure of six per cent and then argue that since only six per cent of farmers get the benefit of MSP and procurement, why have the Food Corporation of India (FCI) at all?
But there is another way of looking at it. It is true that large numbers of farmers are deprived of the benefits of MSP. It is not because they do not want to sell to the procurement agencies but because they do not have access to official procurement centre, which are set up only in selective States and regions. The majority of farmers sell at distress prices which push them deeper into debt. For this large section of rural India, reforming the system would mean a substantial increase in the number of procurement centres and easier access, so as to enable it to benefit from MSP.
As soon as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) assumed office, the first thing it did was to bring down the rate of increase of MSP to just about three per cent over the previous year — this when the prices of farm inputs have increased phenomenally.
Some States under pressure from Kisan movements decided to give a bonus over and above the MSP to help farmers. The Modi government stepped in to “punish” such States. It decreed that it would not procure any food grains over and above the requirement for the Public Distribution System (PDS) from such States which gave the farmers a bonus.
Confronted with the Central government’s policy, the Chhattisgarh government, for example, which had given such a bonus, issued a circular that it would procure only 10 quintals of paddy per acre from individual farmers. Andhra Pradesh has also limited its procurement. Thus, open-ended procurement which ensured India’s food security and farmer security is now in the process of being whittled down while the rate of increase of MSP is delinked from the increases in the cost of production and adequate profit margins. This is in contrast to the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendation for MSP to be calculated at the cost of production plus 50 per cent profit, to keep agriculture viable.
The immediate impact in Chhattisgarh has been distress sales by farmers to private traders who can dictate prices, buoyed by the assurance from the government that it would not procure more grains.
The Shanta Kumar Committee report takes these dangerous steps further by advocating limited procurement as the officially declared policy.
This is directly linked to its recommendation to scrap the existing Food Security Act (FSA). The Committee wants to reduce the coverage from 67 per cent to 40 per cent of the population. It also wants to double the prices that these food grains are to be sold at under the present Act by linking the price to the MSP. This means resurrecting the fraudulent and discredited Above Poverty Line and Below Poverty Line estimations and depriving equally poor people of subsidised grains. In fact, as the Left has consistently argued and fought for, it is only a universalised PDS that can meet the requirement to make India hunger-free. The Shanta Kumar Committee wants to eliminate even the inadequate provisions under the existing FSA and push the country back to the worst days of food insecurity.
Ironically, such a recommendation comes at a time when the United Nations agencies monitoring country-wise performances towards meeting the Millennium goals have praised India for its reduction of malnutrition, giving credit for this to food security systems like the “ICDS [Integrated Child Development Services] as well as the public distribution system.” In spite of the reduction, which brings India from the “most alarming category” to the “seriously affected” category, the country is still home to the largest malnourished population in the world; its rank in the Global Hunger Index at 55 out of 76 emerging economies is only slightly ahead of Pakistan and Bangladesh but worse than Sri Lanka and Nepal.
As in the case of procurement, the Modi government has started to subvert the FSA in the case of implementation too. The FSA became law in September 2013. More than a year later, it is being implemented in only 11 States. The Central government has excluded 25 States and Union Territories from the ambit of the Act. According to a release on November 28, 2014, these States and Union Territories “have not completed the preparatory measures required for the implementation of the Act.” It was further stated that “the Central Government extended the deadline for the implementation of the Act by another six months, namely till April 2014.”
The Government of India has no right to make the implementation of the Act conditional to “preparedness” on the basis of parameters it has decided arbitrarily. There is no such legal provision in the Act, nor is there any legal deadline. But the official release reflects clearly the present government’s hostility towards taking any responsibility for food security. This is also reflected in the allocation of food grains. If the FSA is to be implemented, then according to the calculations of the Food Ministry, the allocations will go up to 550 lakh tonnes of food grains compared to the pre-FSA allocations in 2012-2013 of 504 lakh tonnes.
Shift to direct cash transfers
According to the Ministry’s food grains bulletin till December 2014, allocations to the States were just 388 lakh tonnes of food grains. This is roughly the same as it was the previous year, before the Act was passed. In other words, the Modi government has already stayed the implementation of the FSA. It is preparing to shift to direct cash transfers for a more restricted number of families.
The Shanta Kumar Committee’s recommendations to unbundle the FCI, allowing the free play of market forces in procurement and storage of food grains, and restricting the FSA are in tune with the demands raised by the western world led by the U.S. in the World Trade Organisation against India’s systems of procurement, storage and distribution. The India-U.S. agreement to end the stalemate in the WTO process is clearly premised on the changes being suggested by the Committee.
The government can be expected to try and bulldoze the required amendments to the FSA through Parliament using its majority. But undoubtedly it will face the resistance of the people.
(Brinda Karat is a member of the CPI-M Polit Bureau.)
Food insecurity and statistical fog
The implementation of the National Food Security Act is mired in apathy and confusion. A grave injustice is being done to millions of people who live on the margin of subsistence. It is not too late to remove the roadblocks, but this requires a sense of urgency
An odd silence has surrounded the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in the last few months — as if food insecurity were a thing of the past. It may be recalled that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), far from opposing the Act, vociferously demanded a more comprehensive law when the NFSA was being discussed in Parliament in 2013. In some States, notably Chhattisgarh, the BJP had taken the lead in guaranteeing entitlements that were later included in the Act, and also in showing that the Public Distribution System (PDS) can be reformed. Today, however, the Modi government’s urge to “get things done” does not seem to extend to the NFSA.
Step towards food security
This is unfortunate because the nutrition situation in India remains critical. Very few countries if any, had higher levels of child undernourishment in 2005-6, the last time India collected reliable nutrition statistics at the national level (under the third National Family Health Survey). What happened since then is hard to tell. Some surveys, including a government-sponsored UNICEF survey, suggest significant improvement. Others, notably the second India Human Development Survey, point to very limited progress. This statistical fog, largely due to the failure of the fourth National Family Health Survey, does not help matters. What is clear is that even if substantial progress took place since 2005-6, undernutrition levels in India remain higher than almost anywhere else in the world.
It is no one’s claim that the NFSA is an adequate answer to this problem. The Act has serious flaws, and leaves out some important requirements of good nutrition (e.g. sanitation). Still, effective implementation of NFSA would make an important contribution to food security and improved nutrition. Recent experience shows that a well-functioning PDS makes a big difference to people who live on the margin of subsistence. The Act is also an opportunity to strengthen valuable child nutrition programmes such as school meals and the Integrated Child Development Services.
Central and State governments are jointly responsible for the tardy implementation of the Act. In some respects, the blame clearly lies with the Central government. For instance, ever since July 2013, all Indian women have been entitled to maternity benefits of Rs.6,000 per month under NFSA. It is the Central government’s responsibility to design a scheme for this purpose and to fund it. Yet, this critical provision of the Act does not seem to figure in discussions of the forthcoming Budget.
A new PDS
In other respects, the State governments also have much to answer for. This applies in particular to food entitlements under the PDS. The Act provides for the PDS to cover 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of the urban population at the national level — the corresponding ratios are higher in the poorer States and lower in better-off States. Every eligible household is entitled to 5 kg of foodgrain per person per month at a nominal price (Rs.3, Rs.2 and Rs.1 per kg for rice, wheat and millets respectively). This would mean that the PDS takes care of about half of the foodgrain consumption of eligible households.
“Even if substantial progress took place since 2005-6, undernutrition levels in India remain higher than almost anywhere else in the world.”
This “new PDS” does not require any increase in public procurement of foodgrains, beyond the levels achieved in recent years. It is mainly a restructuring of the system, with broader coverage, lower issue prices and clear entitlements. Recent experience shows that these steps, along with bold PDS reforms, can lead to drastic improvements in the system. This experience is not confined to leader States like Tamil Nadu or Chhattisgarh, but now extends to some lame-duck States as well, e.g. Odisha. Even Bihar, one of the worst-governed States, has achieved remarkable PDS improvements in recent years.
The NFSA is an opportunity to consolidate these achievements and extend them across the country. The main stumbling block is the identification of eligible households. When the Act was being drafted, it was assumed that the identification process would be based on the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC). The idea was to use simple and transparent “exclusion criteria” (e.g. having a permanent government job or owning a motorised vehicle) to weed out relatively well-off households — everyone else would be eligible. SECC is the best available database for this purpose.
The SECC saga
Alas, the release of SECC data has been excruciatingly slow. According to the official SECC website, a “draft list” has been released for about three fourths of India’s districts. However, data are missing for at least some districts in half of India’s major States. Where a draft list has been released, a “final list” is supposed to be prepared after giving every household an opportunity to appeal for corrections — this could take a long time. Meanwhile, for better or worse, some States have gone ahead and issued ration cards based on the draft SECC list.
Aside from the delay, there are other shortcomings in the SECC process. Even in districts for which data have been released, the draft list has important gaps. Also, it is displayed in an odd format (pdf) that does not lend itself to computer searches or tabulations. This is an embarrassing muddle, considering that the Central government spent some Rs.5,000 crore on this exercise.
In the absence of SECC data, some States have resorted to shortcuts such as expanding the old “BPL list”, instead of preparing a new list of eligible households. These shortcuts tend to be fraught with problems. The BPL lists, often as old as 2002 or even 1997, are highly unreliable. In some States, a well-defined BPL list does not even exist — there are different lists in different places (e.g. on the net, at the district level, and at the gram panchayat level), inconsistent with each other. The SECC approach is an opportunity to clean this mess and prepare a single, transparent, logical, digitised list of eligible households.
Bihar’s recent experience shows the benefits of using SECC data to identify eligible households, based on the exclusion approach. The outdated, elusive and often arbitrary BPL list has been replaced with a far more reliable list, transparently linked to SECC data that are available online. Since the SECC’s household listing corresponds to the 2011 population census, the coverage of SECC data is close to universal. There are, of course, inaccuracies in the SECC data, but judging from a recent survey of 1,000 households in four districts of Bihar, the errors are rarely such as to exclude a household that would otherwise be eligible under NFSA. The main shortcoming of the Bihar process, as things stand, is that the list of eligible households is yet to be placed in the public domain. Nevertheless, this approach is a real breakthrough compared with the BPL census. West Bengal is now following a similar approach.
Many other States, however, are unable or unwilling to follow this lead due to delays or gaps in the SECC data. Rajasthan, the first State to implement NFSA, made a mess by relying on an extension of the BPL list to identify eligible households. Odisha, frustrated with the delays, embarked on an entirely separate identification process based on self-declaration — a very risky venture. Jharkhand, lagging behind in these matters, has not moved beyond a series of vacuous announcements.
Just to add to the confusion, the recent report of the Shanta Kumar committee recommends a reduction of the coverage of NFSA from 67 per cent to 40 per cent of the population. How this is supposed to be done, halfway through the implementation of the Act, the report does not explain. Aside from threatening to cause havoc in States that are already implementing the Act, the report has created crippling uncertainties for other States. How is, say, Jharkhand supposed to follow Bihar’s lead if there is a possibility of the expansion of PDS coverage being rolled back any time?
On a more positive note, PDS reforms have made remarkable progress in many States — even Jharkhand — as they prepared for the Food Security Act. It would take little to remove the roadblocks, starting with the release of SECC data, and ensure that the Act serves its purpose. This process, however, requires a sense of urgency that is wholly lacking as things stand.
(Jean Drèze is Visiting Professor at the Department of Economics, Ranchi University.)
Source:-The Hindu date 25th feb.2015
|THE NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY ACT (NFSA):-2013A Step towards Nutritional SecurityIndia will have a new ‘National Food Security Act, 2013’, implemented as a major initiative towards providing the food security to the people of the country as a legal entitlement. The objective of the act is “to provide for food and nutritional security in human cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity and for matters connected therewith”. The act enshrines freedom of right to food and nutrition from the current ‘welfare approach’ to a ‘rights based approach’. The law was passed by the Parliament in the monsoon session and has already received the assent of the Hon. President of India on 10th September, 2013.WHY A NEW LAW?In spite of relatively higher GDP growth achieved during the neo-liberal policy regime, hunger and malnutrition among the majority of Indian population still persists. This has been made conspicuous by the data from National Family Health Survey (NFHS), which reveals that the percentage of aneamic married women in the age group of 15-49 has increased from 53.90 in 1998-99 to 58.20 2005-06 in rural areas and from 45.70 to 51.50 in urban areas. Similarly, percentage of aneamic children has also increased from 75.30 to 81.20 in rural areas and 70.80 to 71.70 in urban area between the same.The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) 2013 report on hunger ranks India at 63 out of 120 countries and in Global Food Security Index 2013, India ranks 70 out of 107 countries.The findings of HUNGaMA (Hunger and Malnutrition) survey report 2011, said that in 112 rural districts of India, 42 % of children under five are underweight and 59 % are stunted.
It is in this context the new law assumes significance as it focuses on ‘Food Security’ which according to FAO terminology has been defined as follows: “Food security exists when all people, at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life’.
The law gives legal right to subsidized food grain to 67% of India’s population and marks a shift in approach to the problem of food security; from the current ‘welfare paradigm’ to a ‘rights-based approach’, thus entitling food to about two third of population at an affordable cost so as to ensure that all Indians “live a life with dignity”.
SALIENT FEATURES OF THE NEW LAW
[Priority Households are those households which are left after deduction of beneficiaries to be covered under Antyodaya Anna Yojna (AAY) from all the ‘Eligible Households’ proposed to be covered by the Act or simply it can be formulated as: Priority Households = Eligible Households – Beneficiaries covered under AAY.]
[Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) was launched in June 1997, with its focus on ” poor in all areas” envisages issue of 10 Kg of foodgrains per family per month for the population Below Poverty Line (BPL) at specially subsidized prices.]
The NFSA 2013 has several supply side challenges, such as, identification of eligible households*, huge subsidy burden on the government exchequer, and volatility in food grains production and prices.
Eligible Households means summation of households covered under the priority households and under Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY).
As stated in the Act, the identification of eligible households should be done by ascertaining the percentage of coverage of rural and urban areas in each state under TPDS, households to be covered under AAY and thus determining the remaining households as priority households to be covered under TDPS, with such guidelines as the State Government may specify. For this the State Governments shall be given time period of not exceeding 365 days after the commencement of the Act, to identify eligible households as per guidelines given in the Act. ]
As per the government’s current procurement price, the subsidy burden on the exchequer is projected at whopping Rs 1.3 lacs crores per year and as such, the increase in subsidy burden would add to the current fiscal account deficit woes. In addition, significant rise in the number of beneficiaries and the need to keep raising the Minimum Support Price (MSP) to cover the rising cost of production and incentivizing the farmers to increase production of cereals, will keep on increasing current fiscal account deficit.
Implementation of NFSA 2013 will impose pressure on public finances and push up the fiscal deficit to 5% of the Gross Domestic Product and would make fiscal sustainability plan of the country difficult to achieve.
Procurement of rice, wheat and coarse cereals by the government of such huge quantities would result in less quantity available in the open market, there by pushing up food grain prices leading to inflationary pressures. This would further be aggravated by erratic monsoon in a particular year by escalating prices of the foodgrains.
The current system of distribution through five lacs fair price shops spread across the country suffers from logistical constraints involving sourcing, storage and onward transportation coupled with the leakage on account of pilferage, rotting and inefficiencies accounting for nearly 40%-50% of the total food stock. If this trend continues, the nation cannot afford the incremental losses on account of additional procurement envisaged in the act.
The act does not provide any agriculture and production related entitlements for farmers inspite of the fact that more than 60% of the people are dependent on agriculture. Without farmer security being an inbuilt mechanism in food security programme, the target may remain elusive.
According to WTO norms, implementation of the Food Security Act may come under market-distorting subsidy, as Government of India will be procuring foodgrains at higher Minimum Support Price (MSP) so as to incentivize more foodgrain production within the country and then selling at below market price to two-thirds of the country’s population.
In a Nutshell
Though the new law has its own share of policy shortcomings, yet it is definitely an effective policy instrument, or say, a game changer for national food security, if the government is able to:
– Reduce economic cost of the foodgrains by making TPDS decentralized, efficient and transparent along with putting in place an effective and inclusive delivery system.
– Farmers’ security be made an inbuilt mechanism as more the secure a farmer is; the more is the agriculture production which ultimately ensures food security for all. This can be expedited by hassle free and timely availability of credit and other financial inclusion services like agriculture insurance.
– Suitable drought and pest resistant variety of seeds and farm inputs shall be made accessible to farmers along with access to sustainable irrigation practices. Value addition and food processing facilities need to be provided to raise farm income of small and marginal farmers.
– Scientific grain storage and modern storage structures should be constructed in high production areas accompanied by an effective delivery mechanism to reduce pilferage of foodgrains. Reduce leakage, wastage through computerization and increased local participation.
– Innovative technologies including smart cards and computerized records need to be made mandatory for an efficient, transparent and targeted intervention. Thus cash transfer aspect of the Act has to be carefully introduced; only after at least 90% of the beneficiaries have bank accounts and when there is end-to-end computerization.
The focused eradication of all the hassles will help in effective implementation of provisions given in the Act. It is only with the advancement of time that one can judge whether the Act was able to desirously deliver on the perceived benefits visualized at the time of enactment.
Fishermen protests against deep sea fishing policy
What is EEZ? An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind. It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles (nmi) from its coast. In colloquial usage, the term may include the continental shelf. The term does not include either the territorial sea or the continental shelf beyond the 200 nmi limit. The difference between the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone is that the first confers full sovereignty over the waters, whereas the second is merely a “sovereign right” which refers to the coastal state’s rights below the surface of the sea. The surface waters, as can be seen in the map, are international waters.
Read more in the Hindu newspaper dated 24 Jan pg 12
Importance: GS Paper-II (Main Examination) –Polity and Governance.
RS chaos may stymie joint session on ordinances
The government’s refrain that it would resort to all procedures, including a joint sitting of Parliament, to legislate a spate of ordinances into Acts of legislature, may come to nothing if the Rajya Sabha is stalled in the next session.
Article 123 of the Constitution provides for the issue of an ordinance by the President subject to the condition that Parliament approves the ordinance within six weeks of its next meeting. This provision has been enshrined in the Constitution to ensure that an executive action is endorsed by Parliament, which alone is competent to enact acts which will be binding on the enforcing authorities.
Read more in the Hindu newspaper dated 19 Jan pg 01
| Will parties comply with CIC Bench
Will India’s national political parties continue to ignore the Central Information Commission, the top agency for implementation of the Right to Information Act?
What are the conditions for a political party to get recognition as a national party? A political party becomes eligible to be recognised as a national party if it fulfils any of the three following conditions:
What is Central Information Commission (CIC)? The Central Information Commission (CIC) set up under the Right to Information Act is the authorised body, established in 2005, under the Government of India to act upon complaints from those individuals who have not been able to submit information requests to a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer due to either the officer not having been appointed, or because the respective Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer refused to receive the application for information under the RTI Act.
What is Right to Information Act (RTI)? The Right to Information Act (RTI) is an Act of the Parliament of India “to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens”. The Act applies to all States and Union Territories of India except Jammu & Kashmir. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen may request information from a “public authority” (a body of Government or “instrumentality of State”) which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination and to proactively certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
Nod for ordinance to amend Land Act :-
President signs coal, insurance ordinances:-
This paves way for additional foreign investment in insurance sector and to move ahead with the re-allocation of cancelled coal mines.
GST Bill: States to get relief:-
Government of India is seeking nod for the 122nd Constitutional Amendment Bill on the Goods and Services Tax.
The New Land Acquisition Act: A step towards social justice:
Why a new Law?
There is an all pervasive concurrence that the current Law of 1894 suffers from many limitations. Despite many amendments made to this law, including the 1984 changes, it has failed to address some key issues.
Although the Land Acquisition Act mandates acquiring land from land owners for some public purpose by the government, land has been usurped from owners at through-away prices for a number of projects which have no public purpose. This has been a clear misuse of the Land Acquisition Act. Another problem is that there is no focus on rehabilitation of displaced land owners. Eventually it is the poor who pays the price for development. In many a cases, the sufferers are the farmers who are inadequately compensated after their fertile agricultural land is taken over for various projects.
For all these reasons the land acquisition practices followed by the government have so far attracted too much criticism. Therefore, land acquisitions have become cumbersome and litigative processes which in turn lead to slow and laggard execution of public infrastructural and developmental projects. The government has tried to rectify these issues by enacting the New Land Acquisition Act.
Highlights of the New Law
The Act mandates that a Social Impact Assessment is undertaken for every project involving land acquisition. To make the process comprehensive and participative one, the new law has provisions for involving the local panchayat, municipality or municipal corporation, as the case may be. The Social Impact Assessment report will be evaluated by an expert group that will have a fair representation of independent experts and then only the implementation will be allowed. The Act requires this assessment process to be completed within six months to make the acquisition process a time bound process and avoid delays.
The Act guarantees higher compensation to persons who lose their land and uses the market value based method to compute compensation. To make the compensation fair, it mandates a compensation of 4 times the market value of the land acquired in rural areas and 2 times the market value of land acquired in urban areas.
Going a long way to reduce coerced and forcible acquisitions the Act requires the consent of 80% of the affected people in case of private land acquisition and 70% in the case of public-private projects (PPP). To curtail the possibility of misuse of the draconian provision of the ‘urgency clause’ of 1894 law, the new Act has redefined and limited this urgency clause application to the requirement for the defense or national security purpose or for any exigencies arising out of natural disasters.”
Another positive aspect is that the definition of “affected family” has been broadened to include more stakeholders like sharecroppers, agricultural labourers, tenants whose primary source of livelihood stands affected. The Act also gives a big boost to participatory approach in decision making giving more say to the self-government institutions and Gram Sabhas as it provides for consultation with them at the time of Social Impact Assessment and also at the time of notification of land acquisition.
An innovative approach has been the inclusion of food security concern in the new law as the new law has special provisions to prevent acquisition of multi-crop irrigated land except in exceptional circumstances. It also empowers the state to limit the acquisition of agricultural land and also makes them responsible to reclaim equivalent agricultural land. Another important provision towards a fairer compensation is that if there is no implementation of the intended project for a period and the value of the land appreciates meanwhile, then this appreciation will have to be shared with the persons who have lost their lands.
Though the new Act is certainly an improvement over the earlier land law, it is not altogether free of policy shortcomings that may overshadow its progressive measures. The process of land acquisition is going to be extremely laggardly and cumbersome after raising the consent to 80% of land owners in case of private land acquisition and 70% in the case of public-private projects (PPP) in important sector of economy such as mining, infrastructure, defense, manufacturing zones, roads, railways, and ports. Again with a complicated acquisition procedure in place, which includes social impact assessment, environmental clearance and other clearances, the process of rehabilitation and resettlement, legal hurdles, etc., acquiring a piece of land is going to be tedious task and may scare potential investors in beginning of project itself. By using the provisions of the law even a small group of land owners can block the implementation of a vital project.
While the concern over loss of fertile land is reasonable from the point of food security and loss of livelihood, the ban of acquisition of multi-crop agriculture land may lead to curbing the natural growth of urbanization in country. Another aspect of such a ban on irrigated multi-crop land is that those peasants, who are willing to exit out of agriculture and start new vocations, will be put in a position of disadvantage. Such is the changing demography of India that India is going to see a ‘youth bulge’ by 2030 and the growing young working population of India is more and more inclined to find a future in non-agricultural occupations. Also according to recent census reports the country would soon have a major part of the population living in cities. It is logical that a big chunk of employment has to be generated in non-agriculture sectors. So our policy makers have been left with little choice but to use even irrigated multi crop land in a reasonable manner.
Though like every law it has its own share of policy shortcomings yet the new law is definitely a big advancement over the archaic colonial Land Acquisition Act of 1894. It’s natural that the new law will evolve and mature with time as its implementation takes place. The new act is certainly a step further towards social justice as it envisages to give a fair deal to the disadvantaged sections of society through providing them a fair compensation and letting them have a voice in the developmental process. It is only with the advance of time one can judge whether the Act really offers what it aims towards, a fair and transparent legal framework for land acquisition resulting in fast tracking of the public infrastructure development.