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Surajit Roy asked: How the implementation of the new Land Acquisition Act will curb the Maoist menace?

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  • Amit Kumar replies: The Left Wing Extremism (LWE) or Maoist movement takes its sinew from the security, administrative and political vacuum that extends over vast areas in parts of the country. The twin process of liberalisation and globalisation has further aggravated this threat by alienating some sections of the society. The Maoist strategy of protracted war recognises the strength and superiority of the state’s brute force, but recognises, equally, its vulnerabilities.

    One such vulnerability emanates from the non-implementation of land reforms in many states, which has resulted in the amassing of large tracts of land by a few at the cost of many which in turn has led to huge unrest among the later to be exploited by the Maoists. The post-liberalisation economic policies have focused on high growth rates, which comes at the cost of social exclusion of many. The previous land acquisition policy, which tantamount to land grabbing, affected millions of families particularly in the hinterlands which have long been a fertile ground for the Maoists. These affected families either become sympathisers or join the Maoist rank-and-file. In either case, they are helping the Maoist strategy of protracted war.

    As part of a continuing effort to deal with LWE in a holistic manner, the government has passed The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, replacing the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Contrary to the previous act, the new act strikes a balance between developmental goals and rights of the affected people. Unlike the old act, the new act provides for the rehabilitation & resettlement and compensation for loss of livelihoods. There was always a need felt for addressing the concerns of farmers and those whose livelihoods are dependent on the land being acquired while facilitating land acquisition for industrialisation, urbanisation and building infrastructure considered necessary for country’s economic growth. The new act stipulates that land acquisition and rehabilitation & resettlement (R&R) must go together and should be seen as two sides of the same coin.

    The salient features of the new land acquisition act are:

    1. Safeguarding Food Security
    2. Minimum Compensation for Land
    3. Minimum R&R Entitlements
    4. Infrastructural Amenities under R&R
    5. Safeguards against indiscriminate acquisition
    6. Transparency Provisions
    7. Timelines
    8. Retrospective effect
    9. No involuntary displacement will take place without completion of R&R.
    10. As far as possible, no acquisition of land shall be made in the Scheduled Areas.
    11. The definition of “affected family” has been made very humane to include the hitherto neglected sections of society whose primary source of livelihood stands affected by the acquisition of land.
    12. No change from the purpose or related purposes for which the land is originally sought to be acquired shall be allowed.
    13. Public Disclosure - All documents mandatorily to be made available in the public domain and on the website.
    14. No land use change shall be permitted if rehabilitation and resettlement is not complied with in full.
    15. Consent of 80 per cent of land owners is needed for acquiring land for private projects and of 70 per cent landowners for public-private projects.

    The new act heralds a new era of development administration in India, quite different from the traditional administration characterised by authoritative and directive style of administration. If implemented successfully, the new act will thwart the Maoist moves in two ways: (a) the hitherto affected developmental projects will gather momentum, which in turn (b) would lead to new employment generation opportunities in the Maoist-infested areas resulting in overall prosperity of the affected people.

    Posted on April 22, 2014