In significant changes in the draft Land Acquisition Bill, the proposed legislation will now be in force with retrospective effect and provide for five times higher compensation to those affected in the SC/ST category.

The revised draft Bill specifically says that Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) Package will be applicable if a private party purchases 50 acres of land or beyond it in urban areas for the purpose of urbanisation. The draft legislation has been sent for inter-Ministerial consultation and is likely to be introduced in Parliament during the current session.

On the retrospective clause, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said the Bill will be applicable to all cases of land acquisition before the date of commencement of the Act if the award under the 1894 Act has not been made. It will also be applicable if the possession of the land has not been taken regardless of whether the award has been made or not.

“So we are not specifying a date. The retrospective effect is not on the basis of a date, but it is on the basis of a stage,” he said.

The new draft Bill also makes it mandatory for an acquirer to give Rs. 5 lakh compensation, instead of the earlier figure of Rs. 2 lakh, if it is unable to provide employment under the package. The government also introduced a couple of changes in the definition of “public purpose” in the new draft following criticism that it was “too wide”.

Mr. Ramesh said the changes were made after the Ministry received “a large number of comments” from farmers’ organisations particularly from Uttar Pradesh, activists’ organisations like the National Alliance for Peoples Movements (NAPM), political parties and industry.

Referring to a provision in the first draft Bill which makes R&R applicable for private purchase of land beyond 100 acres, the Minister said, “The change we have introduced (in the new draft) is it will be 100 acres in rural areas and 50 acres in urban areas.”

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