Laws that govern land acquisition can lock in old paradigms. We study one such case: the Coal Bearing Areas Act of 1957 (CBAA) which provides minimal social and environmental safeguards, and deviates in important ways from the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR). The lack of due diligence in the CBAA confers an undue comparative advantage to coal development, which is inconsistent with India’s current stance to phasedown coal use, reduce air pollution, and advance modern sources of energy. We argue that the premise under which the CBAA was historically justified is no longer valid due to significant changes in the local context. Namely, the environmental and social costs of coal-based energy are far more salient and the market has cleaner energy alternatives that are cost competitive. We recommend updating land acquisition laws to bring coal under the general purview of LARR or, at minimum, amending CBAA to ensure adequate environmental and social safeguards are in place, both in letter and practice.
Srivastav, S. & Singh, T. (2023). 'Greening our Laws: Revising Land Acquisition Law for Coal Mining in India'. INET Oxford Working Paper No. 2023-07. Published in Economic and Political Weekly. Vol. 57, Issue No. 46