Govt for relook at Land Acquisition Act, labour laws

 The government on Wednesday said it is looking at changing some "illogical provisions" of the land acquisition law and is open to rationalising labour laws to spur economic growth.

New Delhi: The government on Wednesday said it is looking at changing some "illogical provisions" of the land acquisition law and is open to rationalising labour laws to spur economic growth.

"There are some illogical provisions (in Land Acquisition Act) like land cannot be used or acquired under this law for private hospitals and schools... There are some factors in it, which certainly require a re-look," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said at the India Economic Summit here.

The new law, he said, lays down an extremely complicated procedure, making it almost impossible to acquire land.

Indian industry has expressed concerns over the implementation of land acquisition law saying it could impact economic development in the country.

Under the Act, it is mandatory to take consent of 80 per cent of the people whose land is taken for private projects. In the case of Public-Private-Partnership projects, the consent of 70 per cent of the people would be required.

Referring to the demand for labour reforms, Jaitley said: "Some aspects of the labour laws in India can certainly be improved and rationalised."

He further said that the government has already introduced some labour reforms in Parliament which will be discussed in the upcoming session.

"This is an area where we will have to have a much larger consideration... Some people will certainly have reservation on this issue. Will I be able to immediately get it passed in Parliament? I am not in a position to comment," he said, adding that the government needs to convince people that a flexible policy will create more jobs.

Commenting on BJP's stand on land acquisition act, senior congress leader Kamal Nath said: "They (BJP) are now opposing the Land Acquisition Act. They did not move a single amendment... When I brought this up on the floor of the house, not a single amendment was moved by them. Now suddenly they want to correct it."

Many states have opposed the new Act complaining that it had hurt the process of acquiring land for infrastructure projects.

According to officials, India's farm subsidies are well below the cap of 10 per cent. India has given a total farm subsidy of USD 56 billion, of which trade distorting subsidy amounts to only USD 13.8 billion for 23 commodities, including rice and wheat.

The food subsidy provided by India for paddy during 2010-11 worked out to be only around 6 per cent of the total output of the commodity in value terms. In case of wheat, the subsidy is negative by 1 per cent.

Jaitley also said the government would protect interest of farmers.

"Today's newspaper headlines tells us the international prices have fallen and if foodgrain prices collapse and India is not able to subsidise its farmers to that extent...The state has to buy foodgrains from the farmers and distribute them to poor people in India and that is the food programme," he said.

Restriction on the extent of food stock holdings would result in "Indian government not being able to buy from its own farmers and foodgrains from elsewhere coming in, increasing the number of suicides which our farmers in India are being compelled to because of indebtness...," he said, adding that "...The Indian government owes it to its farmers to protect their interest".

Jaitley said that during discussions with representations of large economies, India?s position appears to very reasonable.

"But this is being positioned as some kind of ideological opposition to the trade facilitation... Even if there was no WTO, we probably would be doing trade facilitation within India. We are agreeing to a multilateral arrangement on trade facilitation but please keep the peace clause alive till the dispute is settled with regard to the stock holding," he added.