Land Bill cleared, in Parliament tomorrow

The much awaited Land Acquisition Bill, which seeks to lay down norms for increased compensation to land owners would be introduced in the Parliament on Wednesday.

New Delhi: The much awaited Land Acquisition Bill, which seeks to lay down norms for increased compensation to land owners, was approved by the Union Cabinet Monday. It is to be introduced in the Parliament Wednesday.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh termed the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, as "historic".

Ramesh said the bill "brings about balance between the objective of faster industrialisation and the need to protect land owners and livelihood losers".

The bill was cleared at the cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh which lasted almost 90 minutes.

Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi had taken personal interest in the bill and had also given suggestions following his interactions with farmers. The Congress scion had gone on a march to western Uttar Pradesh to meet farmers protesting against land acquisition.

The government had declared its intention to introduce the bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament following a spate of farmers` protests across the country over acquisition of land.

The bill is likely to go to a standing committee after its introduction in Parliament, where it will be examined by members from various parties.

"We expect the standing committee would submit its report sometime during the Winter Session of parliament," Ramesh said.

He asserted that there was broad political support for the bill and added that Congress ally and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee was fully on board and her concerns had been fully reflected.

"The Prime Minister summed up by saying that we need this bill, but we also need faster economic growth and faster industrialisation and faster urbanisation," he said.

The minister said the prime minister has also decided that a meeting of the National Development Council would be called in October and the bill would then be discussed with the chief ministers.

He said the government had got over 100 representations and suggestions on the draft bill and these will be sent to the standing committee. The bill had been put in the public domain July 29.

He said the bill addressed the concerns of farmer organisations across the country and also of landless labour, tenants and other livelihood losers.

The bill integrates land acquisition and rehabilitation and resettlement, defines public purpose clearly, has clause for retrospective effect and draws timelines for compensation.

It proposes that government may step in for acquisition of 20 percent of the land for a private project in case the firm acquires 80 percent of the land needed for a project.

The bill proposals include a subsistence allowance of Rs.3,000 per family per month for a year and an annuity of Rs.2,000 per family per month for 20 years.

It also deals with the issue of acquisition of multi-cropped, irrigated land.

States like Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal and Kerala had reservations over provisions in the draft bill over restrictions on acquisition of multi-cropped land.

Ramesh said that state governments were free to determine how much land they wish to acquire and if they don`t want to acquire land like in the case of West Bengal government.

The bill empowers the gram sabha - village council - to conduct social impact assessment of any land acquisition and defines timelines for compensation.

Sources said the bill makes the consent of at least 80 percent landowners mandatory if acquisition is for private projects. But the consent is not mandatory when land is acquired by the government for its own use. Public purpose has been defined as land use for strategic purposes, infrastructure and industry.

There are different land acquisition norms for rural and urban areas.

For urban areas, it proposes an amount not less that twice the market rate. In rural areas, the amount should be not less than four times the original market value.

Ramesh had met several of his cabinet colleagues including Kapil Sibal, Pranab Mukherjee, Sharad Pawar, A K Antony, P Chidambaram, KC Deo and Ambika Soni to expedite the process of bill finalisation.

The draft bill had earlier hit a roadblock following opposition by Mamata Banerjee to some of its provisions. Though the government had intended to bring the bill in the previous Parliament sessions, Banerjee remained firm in her opposition.

Official sources said that union ministers - Vilasrao Deshmukh, Virbhadra Singh, M. Veerappa Moily - who had been chief ministers earlier had strong views on certain aspects of the bill.


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