x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

India's land acquisition bill will increase conflict, rights groups say

The bill aims to provide extra protection for landowners by requiring developers to get the consent of up to 80 per cent of people whose land is taken for projects. But campaigners say it does not go far enough.

NEW DELHI // India's land acquisition bill which the Congress-led government hopes to pass this week will only set the stage for more conflict, land rights groups said yesterday.

The government aims to present the bill in parliament after the cabinet approved the measure, which is seen as a crucial reform to increase infrastructure development and spur slowing economic growth.

"After the legislation, the nation can expect rising civil unrest in response to major projects," said Shankar Gopalakrishnan, secretary of the Campaign for Survival and Dignity.

"It does not address the fundamental issue of democratic decision-making over how the land is used."

The bill aims to provide extra protection for landowners by requiring developers to get the consent of up to 80 per cent of people whose land is taken for projects. But campaigners say it does not go far enough.

"The proposed bill will result in the same manipulation and forgery that goes on now," Mr Gopalakrishnan said, adding it offers no safeguards about protection of vast areas of common land.

Compulsory land seizures have sparked bitter clashes between farmers and state authorities and huge project delays as India industrialises in its quest to create more jobs for its youthful 1.2-billion population.

The land bill is part of a string of reforms initiated by the government to draw more investment and kick-start growth before 2014 elections.