The State bill does away with the social impact assessment and consent clauses

The Gujarat assembly on Thursday passed a Bill that dilutes the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Act (2013) brought in by the UPA government, by discarding the provisions for social impact assessment and consent clauses for acquisition of land for “public purposes” and “industrial corridors.”

On the last day of the budget session on Thursday, the Assembly, sans the opposition, cleared the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The Bill has done away with social impact assessment for projects related to defence and social infrastructure like building public roads, canals and schools and affordable houses and also for acquisition of land for industrial corridors.

In the statement of objects and reasons of the Bill, the State government has contended that after the central Act on land acquisition, the process has become lengthy and difficult so it needs to dilute the stringent provisions.

Ease of investment

“Gujarat is an industrially progressive State and more and more investment is coming to the State. The State government aims to provide all basic facilities and infrastructure to the entrepreneurs. However, it has been experienced that after coming into force of the said (central) Act, which has very stringent provisions for acquiring the land, land acquisition has become a very lengthy and difficult proposition.”

According to the government, it wants to make the process procedure of land acquisition smooth and easy and at the same time protecting the rights of the land holders whose lands are acquired.

The new legislation passed in the Assembly empowers the authorities to exempt projects “vital to defence of national security of the country”, “infrastructure and electrification project or affordable housing for the poor” or “industrial corridors set up by the State or its undertakings” and “infrastructure projects under public-private partnership” from social impact assessment or consent clauses as incorporated in the central Act.

It also allows the State or its undertakings to acquire land up to one kilometre on both sides of designated railway lines or highways in industrial corridor projects.

“Through this Bill, we are doing away with Social Impact Assessment clause, as it consumes lot of time. Further, it will not be necessary for the government to acquire consent of 80 per cent affected parties if we are acquiring land for social and defence sector,” said senior Minister Nitin Patel, who piloted the Bill in the Assembly.

In short, the State Bill has all the provisions that the NDA government had incorporated in the ordinance, promulgated by the Modi administration, to amend the UPA act.

However, in the run up to the Bihar Assembly polls last year, the Modi administration had allowed the ordinance to lapse and dropped the idea of seeking its passage in Rajya Sabha, where it lacks majority. Instead it asked the BJP-ruled states to amend the law and bring in changes suitable to the respective states.

Shaktisinh Gohil, a Congress legislator, slammed the State government for bringing in the law which is “anti-democratic” and “anti-farmers.”