The Group of Ministers (GoM), discussing the controversial Land Acquisition Bill, has failed to reach a consensus at their second meeting on Monday, remaining divided on what percentage of landowners need to consent, as well as if the Bill’s provisions should be applied retrospectively to ongoing acquisitions.

“Two or three more meetings are needed to finalise the Bill,” Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who heads the GoM, told journalists after the meeting.

The Bill, in its original format, had included a requirement that 80 per cent of all landowners, as well as people who depended on land for their livelihoods, had to give their consent before an acquisition could go through. It also stipulated that acquisitions which hadn’t yet completed the process of land transfer under the old Land Acquisition Act, 1894, would have to meet the more generous compensation and rehabilitation provisions of the new Act. Under pressure from industry and infrastructure associations, both provisions had been diluted.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, whose Ministry is piloting the Bill, indicated that concerns regarding slowing economic growth and the need to project investor-friendly policies, had led to his decision to remove the clause on retrospectivity even before the Bill went to the Union Cabinet last month.

Soon after the Cabinet referred the Bill to the GoM due to irreconcilable differences among ministers, the Bill was redrafted to reduce the consent requirements to only two-thirds of landowners, with the less fortunate left out of the equation.

However, at the first GoM meeting last month, “a strong view was expressed that the Bill should have a window of retrospectivity.”

The issue was extensively discussed again on Monday, but no final view could be taken, according to sources at the meeting.

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