While international safeguard standards against forced displacement are being diluted globally, India has transitioned recently to a more stringent legal framework for compensation and rehabilitation of those displaced by involuntary land acquisition. The new Indian land acquisition law enacted in 2013 has strong, legally actionable safeguards for social impact assessment, prior consent, fair compensation, public participation and transparency in land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation. We document the transition to the new legal regime and highlight the subnational scale as an important determinant of resettlement outcomes for vulnerable groups. Through lessons learned from the first ever Social Impact Assessment (SIA) for an urban infrastructure project in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, we debate the merits of global versus local safeguard regimes. We argue that strong, legally actionable national safeguards and robust global safeguard standards are mutually complementary. Global standards can lay down widely acceptable normative standards based on universal principles of human rights and justice. National standards are more likely to successfully trigger short- and long-term political processes through which the gap between rhetoric and reality can be bridged, so that resettlement outcomes on the ground move closer to the normative.