Status of the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy

As of now, India as a whole does not have a national rehabilitation policy. However, the latest version of the combined Land Acquisition and Resettlement and Rehabilitation policy is expected to be put before the Lok Sabha as soon as the two major political parties decide to talk in Parliament. Hope this will happen soon in coming months, or may be years!!

Several states and some public sector companies have adopted their own state policies for displacement and resettlement. In the 1980s, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka in enacted laws on the rehabilitation of irrigation-displaced persons. In the 1990s, Orissa in and Rajasthan formulated policies for persons displaced by irrigation projects. Coal India Limited in 1994 and the National Thermal Power Corporation in 1993 promulgated their own sectoral resettlement policies. NTPC revised it in 2005 and the National Hydro-Power Corporation (NHPC) finalized its policy in 2006.

The Central government began the policy drafting process only in 1985 when the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes indicated that about 40 per cent of the displaced or affected persons had been tribals (other sources put this figure beyond 50%). The Central Ministry of Welfare appointed a committee to prepare a rehabilitation policy for displaced tribal. However, the committee correctly said that the policy should cover all the displaced, not tribals alone; that rehabilitation should be integral to every project above a certain size in the public as well as private sectors, and that undertaking rehabilitation must be binding on the state and the implementing agencies.

Policy formulation took a new turn in 1993 when in the wake of the World Bank withdrawal from the Sardar Sarovar project on the Narmada, the Ministry of Rural Development prepared a draft, which was revised in 1994 and 1998. It was finalized in 2003 and published in 2004. That policy was intended to apply to projects displacing 500 or more families en masse in the plains and 250 or more in the hills or tribal areas known as Schedule V and Schedule VI in the Constitution.

It allowed for allotment of agricultural or cultivable wasteland to each project-affected family (PAF) to the extent of actual loss, but subject to a maximum of 1 ha of irrigated or 2 ha of un-irrigated land/cultivable wasteland subject to the availability of government land in the district. It also provided for allotment of free site for housing and offered financial benefits to the BPL families. There were other provisions that made it appealing.

Civil Society’s Attempt towards Rehabilitation Policy

Already in 1987 the National Working Group (1989) supported by the Narmada Bachao Andolan prepared a draft policy. When civil society leaders obtained the 1993 and 1994 drafts, they launched an extensive  process of discussions across nation to identify the principles on which a policy should be based. The alternatives were then presented to the Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development, and Government of India in October 1995.

Silence followed after these principles were posited, until November 1997 when the Committee of Secretaries approved a new draft policy that accepted many principles enunciated by the civil society and ignored several others. However, In spite these shortcomings, the civil society considered it a good basis for interaction with the Ministry.

However, discussions stopped some months later and the ministry finalized the policy in 2003 with no participation of the Displaced / Affected people or civil society. The draft policy left out and ignored many principles accepted even by the ministries during the dialogue. It was full of the usual loopholes with hardly any positive for the poor tribals.

Then in May 2007, a Group of Ministers (GoM) took up the drafting of a new legislation along these lines. It was finally introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2011 but could not come up for discussion. Now it is again currently under revision.

Features of the Latest Land Acquisition Bill and Rehabilitation Policy

The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on September 7, 2011 by the Ministry of Rural Development but was never taken up for discussions. The Bill proposed a unified legislation for acquisition of land and adequate rehabilitation mechanisms for all affected persons and replaces the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. But in view of objections from certain states the Centre decided to revise the draft bill incorporating suggestions made by State governments to protect the interests of tribals and the sanctity of the Gram Sabhas. The government intended to reintroduce it in the monsoon session of 2012 but failed, despite the verbal noise by ruling politicians. Let us what happens in coming months or years!!

The Bill would protect the interests of farmers/land owners and not bar purchase of land by the private companies, corporates among others. It would enable acquisition of land for industries, industrialization and some form of urbanization. It also makes it mandatory that Gram Sabhas are consulted and the R&R package is executed before the acquired land is transferred. Under the proposed law, the R&R package would necessarily have to be executed for land acquisitions in excess of 100 acres by private companies. It also prohibits private companies from purchasing any multi-cropped irrigated land for public purposes.

In terms of specific issues, here is what the bill proposes:

Definition of Public Purpose: The proposed Bill makes “public purpose” clearer: it includes laying and developing of infrastructure such as highways, roads, bridges and railway establishments, and not malls and shopping complexes. While the State government would not have any role in acquisition of land, it would come into the picture if the private companies petitioned for such an intervention. The government would do so only if the acquisition would benefit the general public.

To safeguard against indiscriminate acquisition, the Bill requires States to set up a committee under the Chief Secretary to approve that the acquisition is of “public purpose” and the social impact assessment for the land in question has been done.

A Role for the Gram Sabhas: For the first time, the law has acknowledged the role of the Gram Sabha in the process of land acquisition, stressing that they would have to be “consulted”. This has been done to comply with other laws, such as the Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (or PESA), 1996; the Forest Rights Act, 2006; and Land Transfer Regulations in Schedule V (Tribal) Areas. The Ministry of Panchayati Raj had opposed the earlier draft, stressing that the approval of the Gram Sabha was necessary for land acquisition under PESA.

Time limit for utilization of land: If the acquired land was not put to use for within five years of the acquisition, it would be returned to the original owner and the benefit of increase in the market price should go to the owner. The draft Bill will enjoy primacy over 18 other laws pertaining to land acquisition. Its provision will be in addition to and not in derogation of the existing safeguards currently provided for in these laws.

Compensation to both the land and livelihood losers: Both the land owners and livelihood losers will have to be paid compensation. In rural areas, the compensation will amount to six times the market value of the land while in urban areas it would be at least twice the market value. Apart from this, the landowners will be entitled to a subsistence allowance of Rs.3,000 per month for 12 years and Rs.2,000 as annuity for 20 years, with an appropriate index for inflation.

Land for urbanization: In the cases of land acquired for urbanization, 20 per cent of the developed land would be reserved and offered to the land owners in proportion to the acquired land. In addition, every affected family would be entitled to one job, else Rs.2 lakh.

Loss of housing: Those who lost their house in the land acquisition process would be provided a constructed house with, in rural areas, plinth area of 150 sq. m, and 50 sq. m in urban areas, as well as a one-time resettlement allowance of Rs.50,000. If the land acquired is for an irrigation project, one acre of land would be provided to each affected family in the command area. Livelihood losers would get a subsistence allowance of Rs.3,000 per month per family for 12 months and Rs.2,000 per month for 20 years as annuity, factoring in inflation.

Special package for SC/ST: Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes would get a special package wherein each family was entitled to one acre of land in every project. Those settled outside the district would be entitled to an additional 25 per cent of R&R benefits. The draft envisages that ST families be paid one-third of the compensation amount at the very outset. They will also have preference in relocation and resettlement in an area in the same compact block and free land for community and social gatherings.

Tribal Displacement Plan: If 100 or more ST families are displaced, a Tribal Displacement Plan would be put in place. It would include settling land rights and restoring titles on alienated land and development of alternate fuel, fodder and non-timber forest produce. STs and SCs would also get, in the resettlement area, the reservation and other benefits they were entitled to in the displaced area. Besides, the resettlement area should provide at least 25 infrastructural amenities including schools and playgrounds, health centers, roads and electric connections, assured sources of safe drinking water for each family, Panchayat Ghars, fair-price shops and seed-cum-fertilizer storage facilities, places of worship and burial and cremation grounds.

About Goodpal

I am a firm believer in healthy people (mind and body both), healthy societies and healthy environment. Please feel free to comment, share and broadcast your views -- I like rational and intellectual discussions. Thanks for stopping by. Have a Good Day!
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