Cabinet nod for land acquisition Bill, issue for NDC

While approving the rather diluted National Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill and its introduction in Parliament during the current monsoon session, the Union Cabinet on Monday decided to discuss the crucial issue at the National Development Council (NDC) meeting in October.

The highlight of the 90-minute-long Cabinet meeting was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking the opinion of each and every Minister present. Each one of them spoke ahead of the Cabinet approving the note presented to it to enable Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh to introduce the Bill in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

Dr. Singh summed up proceedings saying “we need the Bill, but also need economic growth with speedy industrialisation and urbanisation.”

The Prime Minister also decided to refer the Bill to the NDC, a special meeting of which will be held on October 15-16 and consult all the Chief Ministers on the issue.

The NDC comprises all Chief Ministers and the objective may be to take them on board even as the parliamentary standing committee discusses the bill threadbare.

The proposed law seeks to replace the 117-year-old Land Acquisition Bill, 1894 and for the first time integrates both land acquisition and R&R package.

Nevertheless, the States have been allowed to frame their own laws and if they so desire are free to improve upon the provisions stipulated under the proposed Bill. It allows for flexibility to the State government on whether or not to intervene on behalf of private players for making land acquisition.

Mr. Ramesh rushed twice to Kolkata to seek clearance to the Bill from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The UPA government, according to sources, regarded it necessary to give sufficient opportunities to other Chief Ministers to express their views on the matter which has gained national focus.

Official sources maintained the government is likely to incorporate their views if necessary at the standing committee level or when re-drafting the Bill for final approval of the Cabinet before seeking approval of the Parliament during the winter session.

He said the Bill had become a necessity in the wake of the agitation raging in various parts of the country and to frame a law to balance the need for industrialisation and urbanisation while protecting the interests of farmers, landless labourers, peasants, tenants and share croppers.

The Cabinet note approved on Monday, however, is a much diluted version of the earlier draft much to the disadvantage of the farmers and the livelihood losers. Most of the suggestions of the National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Sonia Gandhi too stand watered down.

Linear projects

The Bill now allows acquisition of multi-cropped irrigated land for linear projects of the government and up to five per cent of the irrigated land in a particular district. In the earlier version the government had proposed a total ban on acquisition of irrigated land, to which several States including West Bengal had opposed.

Now farmers will get only four times the market price in the rural areas as against the earlier provision where they were supposed to be given six times the market price, while in urban areas it will be double the market price.

In any case, the R&R package will be applicable only when the private parties acquire 100 and more acres of land in the rural areas and 50 acres in urban areas.

Even Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities too have been affected in the latest draft which stipulates that 2.5 acres of land be given to members of these communities for each acre acquired from them. The provision is diluted in that earlier for each acre five acres had been stipulated as compensation.

The promised R&R for those surviving on the acquired land will now be applicable only to those who had been eking out a livelihood for at least three years on the said piece of land. Earlier all those sustaining themselves on the acquired piece of land were made eligible for compensation.

State land bank

In the eventuality of the acquired land not being put to use for the defined purpose within 10 years of acquisition, the same would now be transferred to the State land bank. The earlier proviso was to return the land to the farmer if the slated project failed to come up within five years of acquisition. Thus, the government has decided against returning the land to the farmer altogether.

While the purpose for acquisition can't be changed, the Bill, however, now allows transfer of land with the approval of the State government and if the transfer is effected without the development of land then the farmers will have to be paid 20 per cent of the appreciated value.

The Bill specifies timelines for the payment of compensation. The price of land has to be paid within three months of the award, the other monetary compensations within six months and the infrastructure entitlements under the R&R package within 18 months. Penalties will be levied on violation.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 12:52:09 AM |

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