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India ushers another wave of reforms

Posted on Dec 14, 12:06PM | IBNS

India's cabinet on Thursday cleared the long-delayed Land Acquisition Bill and set up a panel headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to expedite approvals for mega investment projects, in a move to incite fresh confidence in Asia's third-biggest economy.

The Cabinet Committee, chaired by Singh and including the Finance Minister will fast track approvals for mega projects of over Rs 1,000 crore while the land acquisition policy will make mandatory the consent of 80 percent of people whose land is taken for private projects.

The bill, finalised by the Rural Development Ministry, also made mandatory obtaining of consent of 70 percent of the people whose land will be for acquired for Public-Private Partnership projects.

The cabinet committee, originally conceived following a proposal by Finance Minister P Chidambram as a National Investment Board had earlier been stridently opposed by the Environment Ministry and others who felt the new committee would have sweeping powers.

In its new form, the panel will have the authority to intervene and approve projects only in the case of undue delays but it will not be able to overturn any decisions made by the Environment Ministry.

Among other economic decisions cleared on Thursday are the long-pending urea investment policy that will incentivize setting up of new fertiliser plants and expansion of existing ones aimed at cutting import dependence.

The Cabinet also decided to slash by 30 percent the base price for telecoms spectrum in four metro circles including Delhi and Mumbai that went unsold in an auction last month.