Takes decision after a meeting with NAC and Rural Ministry officials
The new Union Minister for Rural Development, Jairam Ramesh, on Wednesday set aside the two-bill approach of his predecessor and decided to frame a single integrated Bill on land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement.
After reviewing various programmes of the Ministry, Mr. Ramesh told The Hindu that it would now draft one integrated national Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, as recommended by the National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Sonia Gandhi.
Mr. Ramesh took the decision at a joint meeting of his Ministry officials and NAC members, including N.C. Saxena and Joint Secretary K. Raju. He said both the Ministry and the NAC have to be on the same page on the issue.
The Bill would be drafted within a week and put in public domain for inviting suggestions before approaching the Cabinet and introducing it in the latter part of the monsoon session of Parliament, preferably by August 30.
Mr. Ramesh, however, clarified that the integrated Bill would cover relief provisions for smaller projects and there would still be a separate Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill for purposes such as large industries and calamities.
As regards the NAC's proposal for land acquisition only by the government, he said the Ministry would look at all options aware of the demand of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to leave it to the private players to fend for themselves with no government intervention.
The proposed Bill would ensure handsome compensation for landowners, as also for those whose livelihood depended on the land under reference for acquisition. Benefits of appreciation in the value of land would also be provided to those displaced. And, in case the acquired land was not used within a specified period, the same would be returned to its original owner.
The Ministry would work out the modalities for dealing with land acquisition for urbanisation, as more and more land was expected to be demanded for urbanisation in the years to come.
After reviewing the Below Poverty Line (BPL) census, Mr. Ramesh said he intended to give additional weightage to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities for inclusion in the list, but that would be done only after completion of the headcount.
Apart from automatic inclusion and automatic exclusion criteria, the census was being done on seven deprivation indicators where each one indicator was assigned the same value. After reviewing the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) programmes, Mr. Ramesh issued instructions to see if better convergence was possible for better execution of village roads, the pace of which had been far from satisfactory.
Pointing out only 59 percent of the target was achieved, he said connecting all habitations with main roads was not possible till 2017 and without more financial allocation.
In his estimation, there was need to double the allocation from the present sanction of Rs. 20,000 crore annually. The requirement was estimated to be Rs. 1.5 lakh crore.
Mr. Ramesh directed that all the programmes of the Ministry be implemented with greater vigour, particularly in the left wing extremist-hit areas. The priority had to be in the 78 affected districts, particularly on the PMGSY. There is need to find a solution to the problem afflicting the rural projects in these districts.
The Minister also stressed need to pay more attention on States such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh that were lagging behind.