In the latest flip-flop on the Land Acquisition Bill, which is slated to be discussed by the Union Cabinet on Thursday, the Rural Development Ministry has again diluted the consent provisions, reportedly against the wishes of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
According to sources in the government, the latest version of the Bill requires the consent of only 70 per cent of land owners when the government acquires land for a public-private partnership (PPP) project. For all other types of projects, 80 per cent consent will be required.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh would only confirm that the version going to the Cabinet mandated consent of “something between 67 per cent and 80 per cent” in the case of PPP projects. He expects to introduce the Bill in Parliament before the Winter Session ends on December 20.
In its original avatar, the legislation — now officially titled “The Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill” — had required 80 per cent consent not just from landowners, but also the farm workers who may not own any land themselves, but depend on it for their livelihood. This provision was removed after protests from industry and infrastructure lobbies, and a ministerial panel headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had further diluted consent requirements to just two-thirds — or 67 per cent — of landowners for private and PPP projects.
Mrs. Gandhi’s objections — on the grounds that a farmer-friendly Bill was a key plank in the Congress’ election agenda — had taken that figure back up to 80 per cent.
However, pressures from within the UPA have reportedly forced the Ministry to settle for the compromise figure of 70 per cent.