The government should only in exceptional cases permit acquisition of farm land for non- agriculture purposes like setting up of industries and housing projects, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said on Tuesday.

Mr. Pawar, who heads the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on Land acquisition bill, said there is a pressure on farm land because of rising population.

He said the government would ensure agricultural land having high yields is not allowed for acquisition by private firms for non-agriculture purpose.

“One should not be allowed to acquire agriculture land where single and multiple crops are grown. In only exceptional cases, permission should be given for acquiring some agriculture land, otherwise permission should not be given,” Mr. Pawar said while addressing the Economic Editors Conference.

“We will ensure that acquisition of high yielding farm land is not allowed for non-agriculture purpose. This is a serious issue and the government is concerned about it“.

Stating that the rising population and urbanisation is putting pressure on farm land, Mr. Pawar said the government is focusing on improving farm production and irrigation in “whatever land available”.

With regard to use of agriculture land for non-farm purpose, he said, “some changes are required (in the legislation) and some steps are required to be taken”.

Mr. Pawar’s remarks come a day after the EGoM meeting, which remained inconclusive due to differences among members with regard to certain clauses including those on retrospective acquisitions and percentage of consent required from land owners.

The minister said some suggestions were made in the last EGoM meeting and the legislation would be finalised in the next one or two meetings.

The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011 was introduced in Parliament in September last year and was referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee, which submitted its recommendations in May.

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