Economic Times: June, 2016
Bengaluru: Critical infrastructure projects in sectors such as road, railways, airport and power, stuck for want of small parcels of land, can hope to progress with the state government providing for direct purchase, and exempting such transactions from the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) requirement.
The public private partnership (PPP) projects too will stand to benefit, though the May 31 government order, does not mention that explicitly. "This order is applicable to all projects that are public purpose in nature, and where government has invested. By definition, even PPP projects qualify," a senior revenue department official told et .
Infrastructure Minister R Roshan Baig described it as a progressive step. "When it comes to infrastructure projects we usually wake up late. But we cannot afford to do that anymore," he told ET.
A number of railway projects had been stuck across Karnataka due to hurdles thrown up by the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. "Some of these projects are unable to get hold of land -in some cases, even as small as 20 guntas. If the Railways were to go by the provisions of the Act, then it can take about two years to comply with requirements like environment impact assessment, and R&R," a revenue official said. A government agency now can buy up to 100 acres of land from a landowner, and a committee chaired by the Deputy Commissioner of the district will advise on the price.
"We are taking up track doubling projects such as YelahankaPenukonda, Arasikere-Tumakuru and Chikkajajur-Hubli, and in all these, we need only some amount of additional land for purposes like building of stations and road overunder brides. With this order, we will now go for direct purchase from landowners and implement the projects," said Ashok Gupta, Chief Administrative Officer (Construction) at Southwestern Railway.
Section 46 of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, empowers states to fix a cap on the area of land a government entity can purchase without having to follow the R&R provisions.
"Some states have fixed a higher limit of land they can purchase for projects meant for public purpose. We have capped at 100 acres which an agency can buy with the consent of the farmer or the landowner," revenue department principal secretary Basavaraju told ET.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Karnataka) Rules, notified in October last year, caps the exemption limit for purchase of dry land at 500 acres in rural areas and 100 areas in urban areas for industrial and infrastructure purposes. The government has now defined the kind of projects where this relaxation is available.
"This decision of the government is a in-win situation for both the government and farmers. Earlier, the landowner had to wait for about two years to get his money. The R&R exemptions mean he will get his money fast, which is a big relief for him," the revenue department official said.