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Special land acquisition units to speed up highway projects
Source: The Financial Express Oct 07, 2009
Following up on his promise to speed up acquisition of land for high-way projects, surface transport minister Kamal Nath has said the government is setting up 170 special land acquisition units (SLAUs) in states. "To speedup the process of land acquisition, various steps are being taken by the Union government. One such measure is setting up of SLAU in each state," a ministry of road transport and highways statement said on Tuesday.

They would be expected to focus on problems relating to delays in land acquisition for highways projects under the National Highways Development Programme (NHDP). About 55 such units in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Orissa have already been set up.

Another 26 such units are being set up in Tamil Nadu, followed by 25 each in Uttar Pradesh and Kerala, 13 each in Bihar and 11 each in West Bengal, each in Orissa and Maharashtra and 10 in Rajasthan. The units, with a one-year tenure, would be headed by an officer of the level of additional district magistrate and would have about 20-25 members. They would not only prepare notifications regarding land acquisition but also finalise the award and disburse the compensation to land owners. Apart from this, the SLAUs would be the reference point for disputes.

"Dispute maters relating to arbitration cases be referred to arbitrator, mutation of land acquired under the Act," as per the official statement. To supplement the system of SLAUs, the ministry is also planning to constitute district level coordination committees, headed by district magistrates. They would have to coordinate between revenue officers and SLAUs. Till now, land acquisition for NHDP projects used to be the responsibility of revenue officers.

"As acquisition of land require intensive monitoring at every level right from district, state and central level, it has also been decided that district level coordination committee be constituted under chairmanship of district magistrates," the statement observed.

Nath has promised to cut down the time taken in acquiring land for highway projects from the current 18 months to 8 months, which is a significant impediment in timely execution of contracts. The extent of the problem has been revealed by a recent World Bank study, which has found out that the average time for making a site fully encumbrance free is 30 months against the usually allocated 18 months.

"On an average for national highway projects, it takes 50% more time than scheduled to hand over encumbrance-free land to the contractors. The result is time and cost overruns and related disputes that invariably end up in litigation," the Bank report said.

Tag: Real Estate India, India Properties
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