If the proposed law on acquisition of land is passed, it will be a setback to industrial, infrastructure and urbanization projects, business leaders said at the World Economic Forum's India Economic Forum on Monday.

Representatives of industry criticised many provisions of the law, including its mandate on purchase price to be several times the current market rate, the provision that buyers are responsible for rehabilitation and resettlement of those displaced, including giving them a share of equity or jobs for 26 years.

“We believe it is not fair. If there is forcible land acquisition, it should be difficult and expensive,” said Priya Hiranandani-Vandrevala, Founder and Chairman, Hirco Group, said, adding that it was unfair that the same provisions on pricing and rehabilitation should apply when land is sold voluntarily.

The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, applies if more than 50 acres of urban land or 100 acres of rural land is being acquired. Ajit Gulabchand, Chairman and Managing Director, Hindustan Construction Company, planned its proposal that the consent of 80 per cent of those likely to be affected should be achieved before the purchase takes place, explaining that land ownership is so fragmented and titles so unclear that this provision can extend the process of land purchase indefinitely.

Ratnakar Yashwant Gaikwad, Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra, asserted that most projects were built on marginal, unirrigated and infertile lands, and the only way to create jobs to absorb the excess rural workforce was to expand the manufacturing sector.

Prashant Bangur, Executive President, Shree Cement, said the Bill needed to inject an element of certainty and finality in land buyers' responsibilities, arguing that it is counterproductive to guarantee a job to the displaced for 26 years, as they would have no motivation to be productive.

Mr. Gulabchand demanded that the land acquisition bill should be transferred from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Rural Development to the Ministry of Law. He also argued that the onus of rehabilitation should not be on the buyer but on the government. “If the bill in its present form is passed, there will be no development in the country for the next 100 years,” he said.

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