Parties reach consensus on Land Bill

NEW DELHI (TIP): The government on April 17 achieved “broad consensus” on the long-pending Land Acquisition Bill, paving the way for the contentious legislation to be taken up for consideration and passage in the Budget Session that resumes on Monday. “We have reached a broad consensus on the Land Acquisition Bill,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath and Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said after the allparty meeting. The Bill proposes to replace the archaic Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The government agreed to a key demand of the BJP, which suggested that instead of acquisition, land could be leased to developers so that its ownership remains with farmers and also provides them with regular income. Sushma said the land mafia had bought huge tracts of land from farmers in the hope for four times compensation from the government. “I gave 12 suggestions and the government agreed to almost all of them.We have told the government that when you acquire land, you should give 50 per cent of the compensation to the original farmer and the government has agreed to that,” she said. Sources said the government would amend the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, to provide the enabling provision for states to enact laws in this regard as leasing of land was a state subject.

However, Left parties and DMK still have reservations on certain issues. The CPM is demanding consent of all families affected by land acquisition, whereas the Bill currently provides for agreement from at least 80 per cent affected persons. CPM leader Basudeb Acharia said the original Bill had been diluted and the current version was against the interest of farmers. “We will move amendments when the Bill is taken up in Parliament,” he said. DMK leader TR Baalu claimed that the Bill was against the Constitution’s federal structure.

He has been asked to give suggestions on the issues by tomorrow. The forward movement on the Bill is a big relief for Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh. The first all-party meet on the Bill on April 9 had failed to iron out differences between the government and the BJP, SP and the Left Front. Ever since, Ramesh had been reaching out to leaders of various political parties to work out points of disagreement. Over the past one week, he met BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and CPM’s Sitaram Yechury for their support to the Bill. “The atmosphere was positive. If Parliament functions, we will be able to get this Bill through,” he said today.

The Land Acquisition Bill has emerged as one of UPA’s flagship projects and is followed keenly by chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Congress strategists believe that land reforms can do for the UPA II what the job guarantee scheme and loan waiver had for the UPA I. It was Sonia who had vetoed the clause that said consent of 67% landowners would suffice for the government to acquire land.

The draft legislation provides compensation for owners of acquired land to be four times the market value in rural areas and twice the market value in urban areas. In case of land acquisition for use by private companies or public-private partnerships, consent of 80 per cent displaced people will be required. Considering its far-reaching implications, the Bill has been through various procedural stages. Introduced in Parliament in September 2011, it was subsequently referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee, which submitted its recommendations in May 2012. Ministries related to infrastructure and commerce insisted on changes to provisions that were perceived as hurdles to investment and industry. The industry felt that terms of compensation and rehabilitation provided by Bill would be detrimental to it.

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-The government agreed to a key BJP demand that instead of acquisition, land could be leased to developers

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