Plans hit as Delhi loses power to acquire land
Feb 26, 2014
Source : The Times of India


DELHI: Lack of full statehood has now become a hurdle in the path of Delhi’s development. A new central law on land acquisition that came into force on January 1 leaves the union territories with no say in land acquisition for projects, vesting all the powers in the Centre. As a result, there’s a shadow of uncertainty over at least 15 development projects in Delhi, besides the Metro’s expansions plans.

Delhi, not being a full state, remains in the category of union territories, as per the Constitution. The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, Resettlement Act 2013 does not leave the UTs with any power to carry out fresh land acquisition, not even under the ‘urgency’ clause. Land can now be acquired in Delhi only with the home ministry’s clearance.

After seeking legal opinion on the matter, Delhi’s chief secretary has decided to write to the home ministry to delegate land acquisition powers to the city through a special provision. Before the new law came into force, all acquisitions were carried out in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act 1894. The Centre had delegated powers to the Delhi government for acquiring land.

In the capital, land has been a central subject. But the city’s land and building department used to clear the civic agencies’ demands for acquiring land after settling the terms of compensation. The new law that falls under the ambit of the rural development ministry sets norms for both states and UTs. In case of Delhi, which figures on the list of UTs, the law makes the home ministry the deciding authority for acquiring land.

At present, there are at least 15 development projects that are awaiting clearance for land acquisition. These will have to await the directions of the Centre for any movement. Some of the works that have run into the new law are: acquisition of land to speed up completion of the grade separator at Rani Jhansi Road; low-cost housing for relocation and rehabilitation of urban poor under JNNURM; a government school in Beharipur; a hospital in Karol Bagh; an open jail in Baprola; road widening in Bhajanpura and an approach road in Bakarwala.

All clearances related to new Metro projects may get slowed down if the Centre does not act fast, say senior officials.

According to the provisions of the new law, a series of checks have been introduced to prevent exploitation of those inhabiting the land proposed to be acquired. To begin with, there will be a detailed social impact assessment, followed by an expert group review and public hearings. Finally, the consent of all those to be compensated and rehabilitated will need to be taken under the new law.

The law aims to ensure that the displaced people get a voice. However, the requirement for the land and building department to carry out an assessment for every project requiring land will cause long delays. Experts say the assessments could take 2-3 years.

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