Land acquisition bill gets all party nod

New Delhi, April 18 (IANS) The government said Thursday there was broad consensus on the land acquisition bill, paving the way for its introduction in parliament in the second half of the budget session, resuming Monday.

“We have reached a broad consensus on the land acquisition bill,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told reporters after the meeting.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said the government has agreed on two major issues raised by main opposition BJP, one of which was an enabling provision for states to introduce a clause allowing leasing of land for projects instead of acquisition.

The second major concern put forward by the BJP was ensuring that all owners who had sold their land after Sept 5, 2011, when the bill was first introduced, also get compensation.

“We agreed on the issue that there was a lot of speculative buying of land after Sept 5, 2011. So we are working on a provision to ensure that the original owners of such land also get some share of the compensation,” Ramesh said.

The CPI-M had made a demand pertaining to the right to compensation of tenants who actually till the land.

“Though this issue is very Bengal-specific as the ‘Barga’ (tenancy) system is limited to that state, we have said we would examine this,” Ramesh said, adding: “In any case, the state government can always improve upon the law”.

“All political parties are agreed on the point that the bill should be passed in this session,” he said, adding: “Now all their suggestions will be discussed on the floor of the house.”

Quizzed on the industry reaction to the bill, Ramesh said: “The bill has come under attack both from land rights activists as well as industries. So we have tried to take a middle path”.

The Left parties and the DMK still have reservations on the bill, with the CPI-M demanding 100 percent consent from all families affected by the acquisition of land.

“There is a lot of dilution from the original bill. The current version is against the interests of the farmers. We will move amendments when the bill is taken up in parliament,” CPI-M leader Basudeb Acharia said.

DMK leader T.R. Baalu said that the bill was against the federal structure of the constitution and his party could not agree to it.

The DMK, which quit the government last month on the centre’s “unwillingness” to take on Sri Lanka over alleged violations of human rights of ethnic Tamils, has been asked to make its suggestions regarding the issues related to the bill by April 19.

The first all-party meet on the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, was held on April 9 but the parties failed to arrive at a consensus.

Thursday’s meeting was attended by Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley, Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M), Ramgopal Yadav (SP), D. Raja (CPI), B. Mahtab (BJD), Sharad Yadav (JD-U), M. Thambidurai and V. Maitreyan (both AIADMK).

No representatives of the Trinamool Congress, the Akali Dal and the BSP were present.

The bill seeks to address problems of industry regarding acquisition of land for setting up projects, and provides for rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced people.

It proposes to replace the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

The draft bill has provisions like compensation for the owners of the acquired land to be four times the market value in case of rural areas and twice in case of urban areas.

In case of acquisition of land for use by private companies or public-private partnerships, consent of 80 percent of the displaced people will be required.

Earlier, the bill’s consideration was deferred by the Lok Sabha during the winter session till the budget session under pressure from opposition members. It was then referred to a standing committee.

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