x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Bill aims to safeguard the poorly educated

New property legislation in India will replace an act put in place during British rule.

The 2011 Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill sets out India's reforms for buying land.

The bill aims to establish the law on land acquisition, as well as the rehabilitation and resettlement of those directly affected.

There are 107 clauses in the bill, which seeks to replace the 1894 Land Acquisition Act, created during British rule in India.

The bill puts much emphasis on social inclusiveness and the welfare of farmers.

A first draft suggested that companies acquiring land in rural areas would have to pay six times the commercial rate, but this was lowered in July to four times. In urban areas, companies will have to pay twice the market price.

On every transaction, within 10 years of the date of acquiring the land, a fifth of the appreciated value should be shared with the original owner, thereby aiming to ensure that farmers who sold their land do not feel they were cheated.

One member per affected family must be provided with a job or alternatively 200,000 rupees (Dh15,000) if employment is not offered.

The general consent of 80 per cent of the people of the area where land is to be acquired will be mandatory.

If the land is not used for the given purpose, it will be passed on to the state land authority - not the original owner.

The bill is compliant with all existing laws on tribal welfare. It seeks to protect the rights of farmers who are poorly educated, often illiterate and living hand to mouth. Such people have been held to have little power to fight back when the state or industry buys their land.

Legislators want to make the process of acquisition fully transparent.

Protests against land acquisition have intensified in recent years, as India's industrialisation and demand for land picks up pace.

Compulsory land acquisition for the public good is a contentious issue as the overcrowded country seeks to modernise, with big projects for factories, housing and transport held up by land rights issues.

Farmers complain they are not adequately compensated for their land, while companies are not keen on making large investments over fears the courts will strip them of their holdings, stalling much-needed investment.

The bill was introduced on September 7 and is awaiting public reaction.

It is scheduled to be debated and voted on in December.

* Pia Heikkila