Watch Video: Does the Land Bill Need Social Impact Assessment? 

The SIA is the only forum where displaced farmers will have a say. Here’s why it’s a good and a bad for the Land Bill

Updated
India
3 min read
A farmer stands as he listens to a speech by India’s Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi at a farmers rally at Ramlila ground in Delhi on April 19, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

With eleven days for the Budget Session to conclude, the Modi government is racing against time to pass the contentious Land Acquisition Bill. Apart from the consent clause, the second roadblock to it’s passage in the Rajya Sabha is the selective inclusion of Social Impact Assessment.

Want a 90-second round up on what the fight is about? Watch.

Social Impact What ???

The Social Impact Assessment (SIA) is essentially a survey or a preliminary investigation conducted before land is acquired. It should answer 5 basic questions

1. How many people will be displaced and/or affected by the land acqusition?2. Does the project for which land has been acquired serve a public purpose?
3. What is the extent of land needed to be acquired for the project?
4. Has acquisition at another place been considered and not found feasible?
5. Does the adverse economic impact on the landowners outweigh the greater public good?

Not A Perfect Bill

UPA’s 2013 Bill proposed to complete the exercise within 6 months. But there were 2 glaring loopholes

1. The SIA could be done away with in ‘matters of urgency’ which remained vaguley defined
2. The advice of the expert panel conducting this survey could be disregarded by the government

Section 40 of the UPA’s Land Bill allows the government sweeping powers to acquire land, SIA notwithstanding
Section 40 of the UPA’s Land Bill allows the government sweeping powers to acquire land, SIA notwithstanding

NDA’s Amendments

The NDA government’s Bill says the survey must be conducted but exempted projects that fall under 5 categories

1. Defence
2. Rural Infrastructure
3. Affordable Housing
4. Industrial Corridors
5. Public-Private Partnership Projects

Watch Video: Does the Land Bill Need Social Impact Assessment? 

Arguments FOR Social Impact Assessment


1. The survey allows the displaced and affected landowners to voice their concerns or reservations
2. It allows for an official estimate on how many people will be directly and indirectly affected by a land acquisition bid
3. Ensures bare minimum land is acquired for the project in question
4. Decides if the number of people benefitting from the project outnumber those affected by it.

Arguments AGAINST the Survey

1. A Social Impact Assessment Survey can be time consuming, especially for urgent matters like Defence
2. Can allow anyone with a political agenda to ‘obstruct’ development projects

The Modi government had 11 days to push through the contentious Land Acquisition Bill in this Budget Session. (Photo: Reuters)
The Modi government had 11 days to push through the contentious Land Acquisition Bill in this Budget Session. (Photo: Reuters)

The Politics of Social Impact Survey

The Modi sarkaar has made a half-hearted attempt to placate the opposition. The amended Bill says that before issuing a notification waiving the need for a survey, the government must specify that only the bare minimum land is being acquired.

It’s a half-measure that is unlikely to be acceptable to the Congress. Aware that the legislation will not pass muster in the Rajya Sabha, NDA floor managers are likely to push for the next constitutional measure - a joint session of the Parliament where is has more room to boost its numbers.

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