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Editorials Today – Land Acquisition in India:- A historical perspective


Land Acquisition in India:- A historical perspective

[1] Land Acquisition in India:- A historical perspective

Need For Land Acquisition –  For infrastructural development , foreign investments , setting important institutions etc

History of Land Acquisition laws- History, land Acquisition bill 2009 , LARR Act 2014 , proposed changes in 2015 Bill .

Issues with land Acquisition- Importance of land, reluctance and protests by landholders , faults in the present law or proposed bill

Way Forward –  Removing the distrust and sense of alienation generated by devising equitable methods.

Land Acquisition in India:- A historical perspective

Land acquisition is basically a process in which the union and the state government of the country is trying to acquire any private land owned by any person or party .


[2] Need for Land acquisition laws in India:-

  • Land acquisition and Environmental issues are one of the largest sources of delay in most infrastructure projects in India.
  • A number of Airport, SEZ, IT Park, Chemical plant and other projects are stalled in the country due to issues in land acquisition
  • Ownership rights in India are poorly defined and disputes on specific parcels of land are common.
  • Whenever a project requires a large piece of contiguous land, the entrepreneur is likely to run into smaller parcels within this piece of land whose ownership rights are in dispute.
  • Even if the deal goes right, there remains the possibility of facing the legal claims by the sellers or the owners of land.
  • Absence of effective land acquisition laws can demotivate the project owners from undertaking big projects in an area in dire need of development.
  • Land acquisition laws also protect the uneducated sellers from getting exploited by the powerful corporates and political nexus.
  • India is in grave need of infrastructure development that is only possible through acquiring large pieces of land in diverse areas of dense population.
  • Hence uniform laws for acquiring lands in whole of the country can remove the ambiguity and skepticism in the mind of people regarding motive of government.

[3] History of Land Acquisition Laws

  • The first land acquisition legislation in India was enacted by the British government in 1824 in Bengal presidency and later in Bombay and Madras. The law enabled the government to obtain, at a fair value , land or other immovable property required for roads, canals or other public purposes.
  • Owing to unsatisfactory settlement, incompetence and corruption it further amended in 1861  and 1863 and subsequently led to the enactment of Act of 1870.
  • The 1870 law for the first time, brought a mechanism for settlement and was eventually replaced by the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 . The 1894 law did not apply to princely states like Hyderabad, Mysore and Travancore.
  • After India gained independence in 1947, it adopted the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 by the “Indian Independence (Adaptation of Central Acts and Ordinances) Order” in 1948.

[4] After Independence-

Since 1947, land acquisition in India has been done through the British-era act.

Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill 2009

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in its first term (2004-09) sought to amend the act in 2007 introduced a bill in parliament.

The 2007 amendment bill was passed in Lok Sabha as the “Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill 2009” in February 2009 . Then Due to dissolution of loksabha , the bill got lapsed .

  • The bill called for a mandatory social impact assessment (SIA) study in case of large-scale “physical displacements” in land acquisition.
  • It ensured the eligibility of tribals, forest-dwellers and persons having tenancy rights under the relevant state laws.
  • As per the bill, while acquiring the land, the government had to pay for loss or damages and the costs of resettlement and rehabilitation
  • It also sought to establish the Land Acquisition Compensation Disputes Settlement Authority at both the state and central levels
  • Besides, the bill also proposed that land acquired as per the act which is unused for a period of five years shall be returned to the appropriate government.

[5] Land Acquisition bill, 2013

UPA came back to power with a bigger mandate, it sought to reintroduce the bill in 2011 as the “Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011” August 2013 as the bill was passed in “The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013” and came into effect on 1 January 2014.

  • Stage 1 – SIA -The process of land acquisition was to start  with the Preparation of Social Impact Assessment Study by government along with the local authority.  Consultation of the concerned Gram Sabha, Panchayat, Municipality or Municipal Corporation was needed prior to acquisition by the government
  • Stage 2– Appraisal of SIA – Once the SIA study is over and report is ready, the government will refer this report to an  Expert Group , which after studying the report can say no to acquisition.
  • Even if the expert group says no, the government is able to acquire the land. The Government would need to record in writing that: project is legitimate and bona fide public purpose,  it’s potential benefits and the public purpose outweigh the social costs and adverse social impact .
  • Stage 3: Notification and acquisition – the government then would put a preliminary notification in which it would publish the details of the land acquired .The determination of the market value of land is done by collector or equivalent officer.
  • Stage 4Rehabilitation and resettlement-
  • It proposed that for a private project, land could be acquired only if 80% of the affected families agree to its acquisition.
  • For a public-private partnership (PPP) project, 70% affected families must agree.
  • It proposed compensation for the affected parties—four times the market rate in rural areas and two times of the market rate in urban areas.
  • It also sought to compensate artisans, traders and other affected parties through a one-time payment, even if they didn’t own land in the area considered for acquisition
  • The act said that as far as possible, no acquisition of land shall be made in the Scheduled Areas

In May 2014 , new government came at centre with Land acquisition being central to the thrust given to infrastructural projects. To facilitate its economic agenda, it promulgated the land acquisition amendment ordinance in December 2014

[6] Proposed 2015 bill

  • This Bill amends the principal Act passed in 2013.
  • The bill exempts the following  five categories of projects from  the requirements of:  1. social impact assessment   2. restrictions on acquisition of multi-cropped land 3. consent for private projects and public private partnerships (PPPs) projects.


Rural infrastructure

Affordable housing

Industrial corridors

Infrastructure including PPPs where government owns the land. 

  • The 2013 Act would apply retrospectively, if an award had been made five years earlier and compensation had not been paid or possession not taken.  The 2015 Bill exempts any period when a court has given a stay on the acquisition, while computing the five year period. 
  • The 2013 Act deemed the head of a government department guilty for an offence by the department. The 2015Bill removes this, and adds the requirement of prior sanction to  prosecute a government employee.
  • The 2013 act facilitated land acquisition by private companies, which the 2015 bill has changed to “private entities.”

Issues with Land Acquisition

[1] Importance of holding land

  • Right to private property was considered as a fundamental right under the original constitution of india. And is a legal right currently.
  • India being a majorly agricultural country , land is not just an economic issue but people have emotional attachment to it. Measure of a person’s land holding is still considered as a measure of his worth and respect garnered from society .
  • Land is seen as a permanent source of security and just just a source to grow crops.

Issues with the proposed bill –

  • The five exempted categories look vague and can be broadly used to justify most of the big acquisitions. Eg- rural infrastructure , industrial corridor.
  • It requires prior sanction for prosecution of the government official involved in any offence by department.


  • Most of the landholders find themselves at disadvantage as compared to the people whose land was not acquired. Generating a feeling of being cheated . Disbursal of compensation amount is not on time.
  • There are many instances in which acquisition was done for some purpose but after a few years was sold to other party and used for some other purpose.
  • Most of the times compensation amount is less than the market rate , as the market rates are fluctuating in nature .
  • No surety about the acquisition, many a times people sell their land in haste to a buyer ready to face the risk at substantially low rates.

[2] Way forward:

There is no denying the fact that with infrastructural development of a place , there is a flux in construction activity , new companies setting up , better facilities for the inhabitants along with several employment opportunities.

But still the government has to face a lot of protest from the landholders , who blame the system of not providing proper compensation and leaving them at the losing end.


[3]There are various ways to address these issues like:

  • Making the landholder a shareholder in the profits of the company which is set up on their land.
  • Providing few flats to the actual land holder out of the building built on their land ,
  • They should have a right to take back their land if land is left unused for a number of years
  • There could be a provision of giving employment to people from the families whose land was acquired.
  • In all the sense of alienation, cheating and distrust generated in the minds of people has to be removed by working on equitable distribution of profits .



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