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Land, Rights and Reform in India

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India's legal regime governing the compulsory acquisition of private land by the state for "public purposes" has long been criticized for breeding corruption and insufficiently protecting landowners and local communities. Attempts to overhaul the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (LAA) have faced stiff resistance from powerful interests within and outside the state. When the United Progressive Alliance government took power in 2004, few would have guessed that it would seek to replace the LAA with legislation that imposes more rigorous standards for the compulsory acquisition of land and detailed rules for addressing the needs of displaced people. Yet, in 2011 the government introduced the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill (LARRB). This article argues (1) that the LARRB displays certain distinctive characteristics shared by other rights-related statutes enacted under the UPA government; (2) that the emergence of this distinctive—and unforeseen—piece of legislation was driven largely by India's approach to creating Special Economic Zones; and (3) that both the LARRB's content and the process by which it was introduced have implications for debates of wider theoretical significance, including the increasingly hybrid nature of rights, and the desirability of combining insights from the literatures on "policy feedback" and "policy entrepreneurs."
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Keywords: DISPLACEMENT; HUMAN RIGHTS; INDIA; LAND; LAND ACQUISITION; POLICY REFORM; REHABILITATION AND RESETTLEMENT

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2013-09-01

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