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Congress leaders meet President against new Land Acquisition Act

Hyderabad: Led by Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy, a delegation of Congress leaders, met President of India Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Nilayam on Friday evening against the new land acquisition law passed by the TRS Government.

Besides Uttam Kumar Reddy, Leaders of Opposition K. Jana Reddy (Assembly) and Mohammed Ali Shabbir (Council) and TPCC Working President Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka were part of the delegation.

They told the President that the amendments carried out by the TRS Government were in gross violation of the principal Act. In their 4-page memorandum,

the Congress leaders pointed out that the Section 107 of the 2013 Act makes it clear that no amendments could be carried out unless they enhance or improve the benefits and safeguards provided under the 2013 law.

They said that the Amendments made by Telangana State government do not satisfy these requirements and instead seek to dilute the protections, safeguards and benefits given under the 2013 law.

“The sole purpose behind this is to make the process of acquiring land easier for the State authorities while curtailing the rights given to the people by the landmark 2013 law,” they said.

Uttam Kumar Reddy said that the amendments seek to convert the State Government into a land mafia.

“The State has created a broad special category of projects for which land can be acquired without following any of the safeguards under the new law.

The amendments allow the state government to indiscriminately acquire land, without providing rehabilitation and settlement. They also pave the way for coercion/forcible acquisition while paying a token lump sum amount in lieu of rehabilitation and resettlement.

They can also invoke the urgency clause for any type of acquisition and avoid carrying out the social impact assessment process which is required to determine if there is indeed a public purpose to justify the acquisition,” he said.

Stating that the Social Impact Assessment or SIA is the heart and soul of the 2013 law, the Congress leaders said that the amendments abandon the process of social impact assessment and preparation of social impact management plan.

Section 10A provides for acquisition of land for almost all the foreseeable purposes without the necessity of carrying out a social impact assessment.

The amendments abandon the necessity for obtaining consent in case of acquisition of lands for private companies for public purpose.

In case of acquisition of land for private companies for public purpose, the Principal Act mandated consent from 80% or 70% of the landowners.

But the amendments drop this requirement. In other words, the amendment takes away the rights conferred by the 2013 Act to the land owner to say ‘no’ to the acquisition for private companies.

The Congress leaders said that the Principal Act contains certain restrictions on acquisition of irrigated multi-cropped lands keeping in view the food security requirements. But the amendments drop this provision and provides for indiscriminate acquisition of lands.

“The amendments, in fact, expand the scope of urgency clause by including any necessity as urgent. The amendment seeks to give powers to the Telangana Government to invoke the urgency clause for any type of acquisition under the pretext of complying with directions of the Central Government to the State Government.

One of the most abused clauses under the Land Acquisition Act 1894 was the urgency clause which was invoked frequently and without justification.

This is why the 2013 Act placed strict and defined restrictions on its use.

The State Government is now attempting to circumvent those protections and bring back the flawed and authoritarian regime of acquisition that existed before the 2013 law was passed,” the Congress leaders said.

Uttam Kumar Reddy said that the amendments do not make any provision for enhancing the compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement provisions.

“Ironically this is the pretext adopted by the State Government to carry out the amendments; an increase in the benefits to be provided.

However, the State cannot in earnestness, point to one clause which shows how the affected families will benefit from their amendments,” he said.

The Congress leaders said that the President was duty bound to consider these grave shortcomings in light of the powers conferred on him by Article 254 (2) of the Constitution of India.

“The President has the right to refuse approval if, after careful consideration, the State amendments are seen as a method to bypass critical safeguards and infringe upon the rights provided to the affected families,” they said.

They appealed to the President that the this State law be seen for what it is an attempt to take away the hard fought rights and protections afforded to the affected families, all in the name of administrative convenience in land acquisition. (INN)

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