Land bill will ensure fair compensation, encourage investors: Jairam Ramesh (Interview)
The much-awaited land acquisition bill okayed by the cabinet last week will give "fair and adequate" compensation to those whose land is acquired and will send a "positive signal to investors", Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has said.
"It is a progressive bill...it will send a positive signal to the investors and give fair and adequate compensation to the land losers... it strikes a balance between the concerns of the industry and the land loser," Ramesh told IANS in an interview.
The Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, took the government a year and a half to finalise.
United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi's National Advisory Council and the Congress party's de facto number two Rahul Gandhi have provided vital inputs on the key bill.
A clause in the bill says the consent of 80 percent of the affected land owners would be required before land can be acquired by private players. In fact, it was Sonia Gandhi's intervention that led to raising the consent level to 80 percent.
Earlier, a group of ministers (GoM) had suggested that the consent of 67 percent of land owners would be sufficient.
The GoM was constituted after many cabinet members had expressed reservations on certain provisions of the bill.
The bill says that the consent of 70 percent of affected landowners would be required in the case of acquisition for a public-private partnership project.
According to Ramesh, the bill would also provide for relief and rehabilitation to those who stand to lose their livelihoods due to land acquisition.
Sources said that in another one year, all the related laws involving relief and rehabilitation of land losers would have to conform to the new bill.
Now, with the cabinet headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh clearing the bill Thursday, it is expected to be tabled during the four days left for parliament's winter session, government sources said.
But passing it may not be easy.
Ramesh said all the parties wanted the government to bring the bill in parliament so that the 117-year old existing land acquisition law - Land Acquisition Act, 1894 - is changed.
"I hope all parties would support it," said Ramesh.
The bill sets a level playing field for the land acquisition process in the country. Once it is passed no state government would be able to dilute its provisions.
"But the states can always improve upon the legislation," Ramesh told IANS.
"In that sense, the bill is a balance between the central obligation and right of the states," he said.
The bill also assures a suitable job for one member of any family displaced due to land acquisition in case of a government project.
According to a clause, if the acquired land is lying unutilised for five years the takeover will lapse.
Under an important retrospective clause, in cases where the compensation for land acquired has been awarded, the rules of the old act would apply but in cases where compensation has not been awarded, the provisions of the new bill would become effective, informed sources said.
(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at email@example.com