The focus of the Land Acquisition Bill should be on farmers and minimum fertile land should be acquired, senior BJP MP Sumitra Mahajan, who heads Parliament’s Standing Committee on Rural Development, has said.

“Farmers should be at the centre (of the legislation) because they are losing land,” Ms. Mahajan said. The bill has been referred to the panel chaired by her.

On the use of fertile agricultural land for industrial development, Ms. Mahajan said, “I am of the view that as far as possible, minimum fertile land should be acquired.”

Observing that the bill will affect a large number of people, she said, “It will have repercussions. We should not rush into this. We will have to think from all angles”.

Ms. Mahajan is expected to submit the committee’s recommendations within three months.

“We have to take states into confidence and leave some space for them. We have to take industrialists, corporates and builders into confidence as they have their own views on the subject,” she said.

“It is essential that when you are acquiring land, interests of those who give the land, should be protected. Land is national wealth,” Ms. Mahajan said.

Problems related to land acquisition are different from state to state and this aspect needs to be looked into, Ms. Mahajan, who represents Indore Lok Sabha seat, said.

“There are some states where infertile land is more. But there are some areas, like Malwa region where I come from, which are totally fertile. Does this mean that in Malwa, there won’t be any development?” she said.

Density of population, status of village and farmers are some of the criteria which will have to be taken into account, Ms. Mahajan said, adding development is necessary but protecting interests of farmers is also necessary.

Asked if she sees a political consensus on the contentious issue of land acquisition, the senior BJP leader said, “Although a difficult task, there could be a consensus.”

“We say India is a predominantly agricultural economy. We have to pay more attention to farmers,” she said.

To a query on social activist Anna Hazare’s demand that approval of village ‘gram sabha’ should be sought before going ahead with any development project, Ms. Mahajan said, “While formulating laws we should speak to everyone.”

One of the things can be done is that the gram sabha should be taken into confidence in case a big project or factory is coming up in the area.

“If the land is for a factory, you give a few crores to the farmer for his land, but what after that? Will he get another land? First of all, you are decreasing arable land. Is it possible that the same farmer would buy agricultural land using the compensation amount? Not necessary. Then what will he do? The amount will be spent just like that. The maximum he will do is buy a house, a vehicle,” she said.

“We have to give our recommendations within three months. No doubt, we will try our best. But we also have to consult state governments bodies, builders, farmers’ associations and social organisations,” Ms. Mahajan said.

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