Views of State governments will be accommodated, says Jairam Ramesh
The Centre has decided to revise the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, incorporating suggestions made by State governments to protect the interests of tribals and the sanctity of the gram sabhas.
Reacting to the parliamentary committee report, Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh said most of the recommendations pertaining to preserving the federal structure would be accepted but asserted the government would have to necessarily play a role in land acquisition.
He also hinted at the possibility of convening a meeting of Chief Ministers, stressing that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been keen on consulting them even before the introduction of the Bill in Parliament last year.
The government intends to prepare the revised Bill ahead of the monsoon session.
The intention is to put a central law in place, prescribing the minimum basic rate of compensation, but the States were free to raise the bar, he added.
In its submission before the committee, the Madhya Pradesh government had charged that the Bill was an assault on the federal principle, as it prescribed a rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) package on sale, and purchase of land. Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra, too, had raised the issue of federalism.
Role of panchayats
Mr. Ramesh also agreed to provide a proper role to the panchayats, and guarantee majority consent of the gram sabhas in making land acquisition, including in the tribal areas, though he added it wouldn't be possible to totally avoid acquisition of land for development purposes.
Expressing his agreement with the committee's suggestion to provide amendments in 16 more central legislations, to put their R&R package on par with the LARR Bill, Mr. Ramesh said he would ask the government to accept the recommendation.
While refusing to budge on the issue of definition of public purpose, Mr. Ramesh justified the one incorporated in the Bill, but agreed to re-examine the need to acquire land for private companies, for the production of public goods or provisions of public services.
Gets Mamata's approval
Replying to questions, Mr. Ramesh said he had personally discussed the Bill with West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC president Mamata Banerjee, and after her approval, the matter was put before the Cabinet, and introduced in Parliament for consideration. “If there's a need, I'll meet her again,” he added.