Sparing some land for urbanisation not harmful: WB official

 Most of India's urbanisation needs can be met if 4-5 per cent of its agricultural land is spared but the "passion" about losing land to industrialisation is making it difficult to pass the controversial Land Acquisition Bill in India, a senior World Bank official has said.

PTI| Last Updated: Jul 29, 2015, 16:36 PM IST

New York: Most of India's urbanisation needs can be met if 4-5 per cent of its agricultural land is spared but the "passion" about losing land to industrialisation is making it difficult to pass the controversial Land Acquisition Bill in India, a senior World Bank official has said.

"We have somehow got too much passionate about losing a bit of agriculture land for urbanisation. I don't think we need to," World Bank Executive Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka Subhash Chandra Garg told PTI here in response to a question on the reform process in India.

He said that India has one of the largest shares of arable land in the world as he made the case that sparing a percentage of that land for urbanisation or industrialisation would not be harmful.

He said it is "projected that if India can spare four-five per cent of its agricultural land," most of its urbanisation and industrialisation needs can be taken care of.

"Land has become somehow a very sensitive subject in the country. My?take is different," he said.

India has about 72 per cent of arable land which is one of the largest anywhere in the world, he said.

"No other country is fortunate to have so much of arable land," he said noting that even in China arable land is about 24-25 per cent while the rest is not agricultural.

"Somehow there is so much passion that has got attached to it (land) now that getting anything (done on) the agricultural land (issue) is becoming very difficult," he said.

Garg, who was in the city to address a meeting organised at the Consulate General of India, said while the government has liberalised sectors like insurance and pension in the one year that it has been in power, some "tough issues" like land lie ahead of it but "one remains optimistic" that these reforms will be?passed.

"I would like to believe that the government will be able to get it (land bill) done," he said.

He cited the example of labour laws and said one of the solutions that can be adopted to remove the hurdle to the passage of the Land Bill is to let the states come up with their own legislation, which can then be approved by the central government.

He said the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is another big reform that is needed in the country and "I am hopeful it will be done."

The government has proposed some changes to the 2013 Land Act through an ordinance in December last year. The bill to replace the ordinance was passed by Lok Sabha but could not be put to vote in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP is in minority. Hence, the ordinance was re-promulgated twice.

At present, there is a political slugfest over the Ordinances with opposition Congress, CPI-M and JD-U seeking "total withdrawal" of proposed changes by the NDA government in the 2013 Land Act and inclusion of some additional measures to further strengthen the law in favour of farmers.