DOI: 10.5176/2251-2403_PSSIR15.46

Authors: Anshu Srivastava

Abstract:

Although it would not be incorrect to say that in India the state is the central actor in any programme for economic development, such a statement can be problematic. As Partha Chatterjee explains, “to talk about, the state as an ‘actor’ is to endow it with a will; to say that it acts according to coherent and rational principle of choice is further to endow it with a consciousness. How is this will and consciousness produced? These are not, one would presumably agree, questions with which the economic literature on planning has concerned itself. For the most part, that literature has taken what it calls ‘socio-political’ conditions as parametric for its exercise”. He further explains that what the state thinks as politically necessary or feasible is ‘given’ to the planner; it is determined by a process of politics that is extraneous to the planning per se. Planning, is an exercise in instrumental rationality- the task of the planner is to work out the consistencies between different objectives, weigh the costs and benefits of different alternatives and suggest an efficient or optimal mix of strategies. The Land Acquisition Bill of 2013 is a case in point. Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 The Parliament passed the LARR Act with a view “to ensure in consultation with institutions of local self –government and Gram Sabhas established under the constitution, a humane, participative, informed and transparent process for land acquisition for industrialization, development of essential infrastructural facilities and urbanization with the least disturbance to the owners of land and other affected families and provide just and fair compensation to the affected families whose land has been acquired or proposed to be acquired” (Gazette of India,2013). Some of the important aspects of the Act are as follows: a) The ‘purpose’ defined in the act can be divided into two parts,namely, • For the use of the government / public sector undertaking /public purpose •For public-private partnership projects and for private companies for public purpose b) ’Consent’ is to be sought from 70{6e6090cdd558c53a8bc18225ef4499fead9160abd3419ad4f137e902b483c465} and 80{6e6090cdd558c53a8bc18225ef4499fead9160abd3419ad4f137e902b483c465} of the affected families respectively for the public-private partnership projects and private cos projects.c) LARR also entails ‘social impact assessment’ for acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation. This refers to whether:• the proposed acquisition serves public purpose •estimation of affected families •extent of land likely to be affected • extent of land is bare minimum needed for project • land acquisition at an alternate place has been considered. d) Whenever social impact assessment takes place, the concerned ‘panchayat’, ‘municipality’ has to be consulted e) A ‘Social Impact Management Plan’ listing the ameliorative measures is a requirement. Along with this, the government needs to ensure that social impact assessment report is evaluated by an independent multidisciplinary ‘Expert Group’. Land Acquisition Ordinance, 2014 and Human Rights The Modi government passed ‘Land acquisition’ ordinance in 2014 which affects the lives of millions and debated over decades, deserved a thorough debate, before the amendment turning over the basic framework was to be brought in (Ventakatesan,2015).The impugned amendment reverses the 2013 Act to 'the principle of eminent domain of the State.' The LARR Act,2013 for the first time since 1980s brought in as a precondition, the consent of 80 per cent and 70 per cent of the affected land holders only for private and Public-Private-Partnership respectively. According to the Land Acquisition Ordinance 2014, the mandatory "consent" clause and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) will not be applicable if the land is acquired for national security, defence, rural infrastructure including electrification, industrial corridors and housing for the poor including PPP where ownership of land continues to be vested with the government. No other country has a law permitting the State to forcibly acquire land for private projects. Land acquisition by private cos or for public-private partnership projects clearly points the trajectory of development process in India. The Act didn't put in the same condition for governmental projects, leaving public sector projects out, which was a flaw. Yet the new amendment drops out 'consent' totally, justifying the 'public purpose' served by private projects. Housing to the poor, highways and infrastructure are some reasons mentioned to argue the point. In fact, the Act would permit acquisition by the State for private entities and not just private companies. This will open a Pandora's Box for land pulling and pooling by private bodies in various sectors, may it be a private trust or society. Under 'infrastructure,' the 2013 Act, includes anything from tourism to manufacturing industry as also water and power projects. Housing in the name of poor too are now profiteering projects and cannot be distinguished from real estate development. Slum rehabilitation projects, which grant large prime land chunks to 'developers', are cleverly named. The claim that fast tracking of the land acquisition is to expedite housing projects for the poor is, therefore, fictitious to say the least. (Patkar,2015) In a nutshell, this paper seeks to explore the relationship between neoliberalism, planning, land acquisition and human rights.

Keywords: Neoliberalism, Land Acquisition in India and Human Rights

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