The British Government of India started passing various legislations to acquire urban property against the wishes of its owners for construction public buildings in Bengal and Madras Presidencies as early as 1824. Over the next half a century they expanded the scope of these laws to rural and forest areas and consolidated them into a single act, the Land Acquisition Act of 1894.
The colonial government invoked the principle of eminent domain by which it claimed ownership of all public land, waters, minerals and mines as the property of the state, usurping the traditional rights of the Indian people over these. It did not make any bones about the fact that one of the primary objectives of Act was to assist companies in acquiring land for their business enterprise.
Since the last two decades the government has been trying hard to open up the space for private capital to obtain the maximum returns. One of the initiatives of the government has been to allow huge number of privately owned Special Economic Zones or SEZs occupying 100s and even 1000s of hectares of land. However, to obtain large tracts of land, close to the urban centres became a huge problem in the face of popular resistance to cede their land for private profiteers. Government has attempted to pass amendments to the Land Acquisition Act, such as through the LAA Bill 2007.
In this Bill, although the stated aim does not mention acquisition of land for private parties, through a slight of the hand the Bill redefines public purpose to include general public use by private companies. The Bill, which was pushed through Lok Sabha on the last day of the Budget Session in 2009, commits the government to acquire the last 30% of the land required for such a project if the private company has been able to purchase the first 70%. However, many farmers and tribals have resisted this too.
Without doubt this is an important issue and many concerned organizations and individuals have suggested a particiapatory process in which the interest of the farmers, tribals people could be safeguarded. Lok Raj Sangathan has demanded that the 1894 Law should be withdrawn and the issue of change of land use should be debated publically to arrive at what constitutes public purpose. We are placing several documents here for interested persons to acquaint themselves with the issues (attachments).
- Land AcquisitionAct 1894
- SEZ Act 2005
- Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill 2007
- Rehab_and_Resettlement Bill 2007
- Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill 2009 as passed by Lok Sabha
- NAC Recommendations 25 May 2011