Rural Development Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to seal land acquisition bill on May 20

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Rashtriya Lok Dal president Ajit Singh on Thursday called for protecting farmers' interests in the Land Acquisition Bill that Union Minister of Rural Development Vilasrao Deshmukh intends to seal after a meeting with stakeholders on May 20.

Mr. Kumar and Mr. Singh separately called on Mr. Deshmukh, who assured them that the two bills pertaining to land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement would be farmer-friendly. He has called a consultation meeting of stakeholders on May 20 before approaching the Union Cabinet and introducing the two amended bills in Parliament, which commences its monsoon session on July 2.

Mr. Kumar opposed acquisition of land against farmers' will and suggested that they be made partners and stakeholders in the commercially-developed plots. Besides, the payment of compensation should be more than the market rate for the land being acquired.

Food security

Stressing that times had changed, Mr. Kumar said a sense of food security was attached to land, and, hence, farmers were willing to sacrifice their lives but not their lands.

He said they also felt cheated at parting with the land for a song, particularly when they witness the same piece of land commanding astronomical value once developed.

Mr. Singh, accompanied by his son and party MP Jayant Chaudhary, also said that compensation should be based on potential and current market value of the land being acquired.

Mr. Singh had called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday on the same issue.

Avoiding misuse

While demanding that the new law be applicable to all matters of land acquisition in progress currently, Mr. Singh said that the “public purpose” of acquiring land should be well-defined to avoid misuse by the States, and acquisition by the State should be limited to 10-15 percent of the requirement of the private project.