Parties to meet again on land acquisition bill

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) Consensus eluded an all-party meeting on the land acquisition bill Tuesday, forcing the government to fix another meeting April 18. A minister said there “was a little progress” at the discussion during the day.

“We have some minor differences and have decided to meet again on April 18,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told reporters after the meeting at Parliament House.

Kamal Nath said all parties were asked to give their suggestions by April 15. These would be circulated April 16, ahead of the next meeting.

The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, seeks to address problems of the industry regarding acquisition of land for setting up projects.

The bill provides for land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement of the displaced people. It proposes to replace the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

Kamal Nath said though parties were largely of the opinion that the bill should be passed at the earliest, they had some suggestions.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said: “Today’s meeting was a positive meeting. There was a little progress.”

“The very fact that the bill has not been sent back to the standing committee is a positive sign and shows that parties are largely supporting it,” he said.

Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, who represented her party at the meet, said the bill was earlier with the parliamentary standing committee and certain amendments were moved but the government failed to incorporate these amendments.

She said her party’s stand was that acquisition should not be the only way to acquire land.

“Leasing of land would be a better proposition so that the farmer gets regular annual income. In this way, the land would go back to the farmer if it is not used,” she said.

Her party also objected to the definition of the term “public purpose” in the bill as it was “very wide”.

“But I am very hopeful that a consensus would be arrived at,” Swaraj said, adding that the BJP has already given 12 suggestions for changes to the government Tuesday.

Ramesh said some of the other parties who have given suggestions include AIADMK and the Trinamool Congress.

The DMK and the Bahujan Samaj Party did not attend the meeting.

Sources said the proposal for referring the bill back to the standing committee was made by some parties initially, but Swaraj proposed the middle path of another meeting in a bid to ensure that the bill is passed in the second half of the current budget session.

Samajwadi party’s Reoti Raman Singh said the bill should ensure that only non-agricultural land is acquired and enough compensation is given to the farmers.

National Congress Party leader Praful Patel said his party supports the bill as there is a desperate need to change the law as the old law was 119 years old.

The draft bill circulated among members 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 per cent of the displaced people will be required.

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

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