Bhubaneswar: The Odisha assembly Wednesday passed four bills, including the land acquisition and resettlement one that will enable the government to exempt strategic and development projects from social impact assessments.
The bills were passed when members of the opposition BJP and Congress walked out from the House over some other issues.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement (Odisha Amendment) Bill, 2023, was first introduced in the assembly in March but withdrawn a month later following severe criticism.
The land acquisition bill enables the government to exempt ‘strategic and development projects’ from social impact assessments and special provisions for safeguarding food security.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RFCTLAR&R) Act, 2013 is a central legislation.
It came into force with effect from January 1, 2014.
“Certain provisions of the RCTLAR&R Act, 2013 such as the mandatory provision of social impact assessment (SIA) study, special provision for food security and provision of lapsing of the SIA study report……are found to be causing delay in acquisition of land,” state Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Sudam Marndi said in a statement.
The state government, through its Make-in-Odisha initiative, intends to attract private investments in mega projects across various sectors to speed up the process of development, he said.
The minister said providing land to the project proponent is one of the basic requirements for industrial and infrastructure developments.
However, the acquisition of private land under the central legislation has been a “major challenge” for the state government, he said.
Therefore, in order to broaden the ecosystem for fast industrial promotion for employment generation and all-round economic development of the state, a task force was constituted under the chairmanship of the additional chief secretary of the revenue department to suggest necessary changes in existing land laws & procedures for facilitating a smooth transfer of land for the industrial projects, he said.
The task force has recommended amendment to the central legislation in its applicability to the state of Odisha, the minister said.
“Keeping in view the recommendation of the task force, it is considered expedient and it is felt necessary to amend the RFCTLAR&R Act, 2013 in its application to the state of Odisha and accordingly, it is proposed to amend the said Act to expedite the handing over of land to different project proponents,” Marndi said.
According to the new provisions, social assessment study will “no longer be required”for projects which are “vital” to the national security or defence of India, infrastructure projects including educational institutions, health facilities, government offices, electrification, irrigation, and drinking water initiatives.
Projects like affordable housing, industrial corridors set up by the state government, infrastructure projects, including highways and railways, and industrial projects involving displacement of 100 families or less or acquisition of private land of 500 acres or less will also be exempted from conducting mandatory social impact assessment, the statement said.
The government also proposed to recover the compensation amount ‘wrongfully’ paid to any person under the RFCTLAR&R Act, 2013 at any point in time and the same would be provided to rightful claimants.
Odisha will be the fourth state to amend the central legislation as Gujarat (2016), Maharashtra (2018) and Karnataka (2019) have already made amendments in its applicability to their respective states and also received the assent of the President of India, the revenue minister said.
The assembly also passed the Odisha Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill, the Silicon University Bill, and the NIST University Bill without the participation of opposition members.