Rubbishing the opposition to amendments to land acquisition law by way of an ordinance, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said it would ensure higher compensation for farmers.
In an article posted on the BJP website and several social media platforms, Mr. Jaitley said the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 had become obsolete and its compensation provisions were highly inadequate. He argued that the Land Acquisition Act 2013, brought in by the UPA government, would have turned India into “a nation of incomplete projects”.
“The present ordinance provides that the farmers would get higher compensation if land is acquired under any of the exempted laws,” Mr. Jaitley wrote.
Before giving his assent, President Pranab Mukherjee had sought a clarification from the government on the urgency to bring the ordinance on land acquisition.
Mr. Jaitley, Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari met the President and explained the government’s position to him.
They also told Mr. Mukherjee that the Act was needed to bring under its purview 13 Central laws, including those relating to defence and national security before January 1 to provide higher compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement benefits to farmers.
In his post, Mr. Jaitley said the ordinance sought to correct 50 drafting errors in the 2013 Act.
“When the 1894 law is amended in the 21st century, it must provide for a 21st century compensation and cater to the developmental needs of the 21st century,” he argued.
Chief among the errors of the previous legislation was the provision that land unused for five years had to be returned, Mr. Jaitley said.
“The earlier provision was clearly defective. Creation of smart cities, townships, industrial corridors, business centres, defence projects, cantonments, ports, nuclear installations, building of highways, irrigation projects and dams has a long gestations period,” he wrote.
The amendment ordinance was based on “extensive consultations, where the State government of most political parties supported these changes”.
“Those who are opposed to it can certainly mandate their State governments not to use the provisions of the ordinance. History will judge how these States will lose out in the era of competitive federalism,” he wrote.
The ordinance provides for five instances of exemptions, including those involving national security and defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors running along national highways and social infrastructure projects.
“Almost all the exempted purposes benefit rural India. They would enhance the value of land, create employment and provide rural areas with better infrastructure and social infrastructure,” Mr. Jaitley said.