- LAND ACQUISITION, GOVERNANCE AND THE STATE: SOME ISSUES AND COMPLICATIONS AROUND THE LARR 2013
- Author : Ajit Chaudhuri
Land acquisition by the state is a topic fraught with complications, strong opinions, and diverse and conflicting viewpoints, especially given the focus on economic growth as a means of development and poverty eradication, and the consequent pressures upon land for industrialisation, infrastructure development, urban expansion, raw materials and energy. In India, there has been increasing public awareness on land acquisition and a climate of suspicion about the state using its powers to enhance the wellbeing of a well-connected few to the detriment of the majority, leading to widespread protests and agitations against such exercises. Weaknesses in the laws relating to land acquisition, especially around public purpose and just compensation, the exploitation of these weaknesses by the state, and the subsequent civic unrest in the aftermath of land acquisition exercises, led to discussions for a new and contemporary law that walked the line between the needs of economic growth, equitable distribution, and human rights. The outcome of these, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 (the LARR), came into force in India on 1st January 2014.
This paper is an exploration into land acquisition from a governance perspective. It enquires into the concept of ‘eminent domain’ that provides a basis for the state to appropriate private property, and relates it to the LARR and its differences with its predecessor, the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. It expounds on the state’s power to acquire private land, the source of this power, and the justice of its use of this power, it examines the matter of public purpose around land acquisition, and it explores the issue of just and fair compensation. It describes the shifts in thinking from government to governance, and asks whether the change from the Land Acquisition Act to the LARR epitomises these shifts. It addresses broad questions such as whether the LARR could be an enabler towards better governance, whether it requires the state to relinquish or devolve some of its powers, and whether the state’s administration retains the ability to manipulate land acquisition outcomes under LARR. In the process, it looks to discussing the complications around land acquisition and the complex interdependencies within these, rather than arriving at easy conclusions and policy directions.
Key words: Eminent domain, Governance, Justice, Land acquisition, Power