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The Government of India has modified the Land Acquisition Act through an ordinance. One of the major changes is the approval constraint.

It exempts at least five categories of land acquisition, including for industrial corridors, from rules that require the consent of at least 70 percent of potential sellers.

This has faced a lot of opposition from the Left-wing parties like Communist Party of India (Marxist) and social activists.

My question is, what has been the norm in democracies worldwide? Does the 70% approval condition really help poor people or it just delays projects?

Indian Land-Acquisition Rules Eased by Modi Executive Order

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    Is "land acquisition" another term for eminent domain? – cpast Feb 6 '15 at 20:05
  • Now that I read about it, I think they are the same. – tempusfugit Feb 6 '15 at 20:46
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    Partial answer: I can't find any other country that requires any amount of the people whose land is being acquired to consent to it; in general, it seems like the rule is that as long as the government tried to buy it normally and it's for a good enough reason, the government could legally buy the land even against 100% opposition from the landowners (it's a very different question whether or not they could push it through politically, but there's generally no legal obstacle based on how many people oppose the purchase). – cpast Feb 6 '15 at 21:50
  • In the United States, use of eminent domain to establish "industrial corridors" (for the benefit of private owners) is generally considered to be an abuse of the power of eminent domain. Several states have passed laws to prevent such abuses. Widely accepted uses of eminent domain include establishing rights-of-way for roads, wires, pipelines, military bases, ports, schools, and government offices. Some of these accepted uses are for the benefit of privately owned railroads, utilities, and similar companies. – Jasper Feb 7 '15 at 0:14
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    As an American, I find it ironic that the Communists are standing up for property rights and the rule of law. And according to the article (linked by the original poster), the so-called restrictive rules were put in place to pre-empt Maoist revolutionary movements. – Jasper Feb 7 '15 at 20:30
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Others have commented about eminent domain in the US. I can add that for the European countries I know, compulsory purchase/expropriation does not rely on the consent of the previous owners at all. So the 70% threshold would not be typical, it's really 0%.

That's not to say the state can do anything or that projects cannot be delayed. The details vary but there are usually a couple of principles limiting expropriation to specific purposes (for the ‘public good’ or some similar notion) and requiring a fair compensation, under the control of the courts. Securing the landowners' approval can therefore be useful to avoid lengthy court proceedings but ultimately the decision rests with an ostensibly neutral third party (the court system) rather than with the state or the owners themselves.

If someone wants to try to derail a project, they would need to argue that they haven't been compensated properly or perhaps that the purpose is blatantly illegal, that the damage they would suffer is disproportionately high, etc. and not merely that they do not consent to the expropriation because that's not relevant, legally speaking.

On a more political level, you can observe that this system does not always succeed in regulating this process peacefully. The scale might be smaller than in India (European countries are small and nobody builds big dams anymore!) but there are several recent infrastructure projects that met with significant and at times (relatively) violent resistance (I am thinking about Stuttgart 21 in Germany or Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport in France).

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    The political process also presents some check on expropriation -- a project happening against 100% opposition from the people whose land you're taking can be a risky political move, depending on the circumstances. In general, it can be better to spend more than "fair compensation" in order to avoid the hassles that come if people fight it in court. – cpast Feb 10 '15 at 17:15

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