Land Acquisition Bill gets Cabinet nod



Land Acquisition Bill gets Cabinet nod New Delhi: The much-talked about Land Acquisition Bill, which provides for enhanced compensation to land owners and other benefits, was on Monday approved by the Union Cabinet notwithstanding reservations from some senior ministers on some aspects.

The Land Acquisition, Relief and Rehabilitation Bill, 2011, which was fast-tracked in the backdrop of a number of agitations in parts of the country, will be introduced in Parliament on Wednesday, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said after the Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Various aspects of the bill, said to be the brainchild of Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, came in for extensive discussion that lasted over 90 minutes.

It is learnt that former chief ministers in the Union Cabinet including Veerappa Moily, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Virbhadra Singh had strong views on certain aspects of the Bill and favoured that the same may be ironed out in the Standing Committee.

One of the concerns of a former chief minister reportedly was that the measure could result in shooting up of land prices across the country.

The Bill is believed to have a proposal for compensation four times higher than market rate to the owners.

It also proposes government help for acquisition of 20 per cent of the land for a private project in case the firm acquires 80 per cent of the land needed for a project. The bill proposals include a subsistence allowance of 3,000 per family per month for a year and an annuity of 2,000 per family per month for 20 years.

With the aim of seeking support for the bill from Cabinet colleagues, Ramesh had met his senior Cabinet colleagues including Pranab Mukherjee, Moily, Ambika Soni, Sharad Pawar, A K Antony, P Chidambaram, Kishore Chandra Deo and Kapil Sibal.

Claiming "broad support" for the bill, Ramesh said, "The prime minister summed up (in the Cabinet meeting) by saying that we need this bill, but we also need faster economic growth and faster industrialisation and faster urbanisation."

He said that UPA ally Mamata Banerjee is "fully on board" and her concerns have been "fully reflected".

"I want to thank the chief minister of West Bengal for her very positive and pro active approach to the bill," he said.

Ramesh's remarks are significant as Banerjee had earlier opposed certain provisions of the Bill and the Centre has made efforts to accommodate her proposals in the present bill.

"We are hoping that it we will be able to introduce this bill on Wednesday and it would be referred to the Standing Committee on Rural Development," he said.

"The Prime Minister has also decided that a meeting of the National Development Council would be called sometimes in the middle of October and this would then be discussed with the Chief Ministers as well."

He said the government had received "over 100 representation, comments and suggestions" on the draft bill, which had been on the Website since July 29 and "all this will be forwarded to the Standing Committee."

"We expect the Standing Committee would submit its report sometime during the winter session of Parliament," he said.

Describing it as a "historic bill" as it replaces a 117- year-old Act, Ramesh said, "It is in my view it addresses the concerns of many farmers and farmer organisations across the country and also concerns of landless labour, tenants and other livelihood losers."

"It integrates Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement. It clearly defines public purpose. It has a retrospective clause," he said.

"So this bill seeks to balance the objective of faster industrialisation, faster urbanisation with the need to protect land owners and livelihood users," Ramesh said.

He said the bill is not "a coercive" one and the state governments can have their own land acquisition laws.

The Minister said "it is a bill that gives maximum flexibility to the state governments."

"It is a bill, in my view, that brings about balance between the objective of faster industrialisation and the need to protect land owners and livelihood losers," he said.

"The state governments are completely free to determine how much land they wish to acquire and if they don't want to acquire like in the case of West Bengal government, they are perfectly free," he added.

PTI