Congress wants uniform compensation

Adding a fresh twist to the controversial Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Second Bill 2015, the five Congress MPs on the joint parliamentary committee examining it have written to panel chairman S.S. Ahluwalia seeking an amendment to the 2013 Act that had been passed by the UPA government.

The change relates to the amount of compensation provided for in the Act.

The letter written on June 30, 2015, a copy of which is with The Hindu, suggests that a flat compensation of four times the highest market value of land, regardless of whether acquired in an urban or rural area, should be paid.

The 2013 Act had mandated a compensation of twice the market value in urban areas, and between two and four times in rural areas, depending on the distance from a town or city. The BJP government had amended this slightly, leaving compensation in urban areas to twice as much as in the Act, but made it a flat four times in rural parts, abandoning the concept of the sliding scale.

This comes even as the meeting of the joint committee on Monday restricted itself to housekeeping, cancelled its meeting on Tuesday: the panel will now meet on July 16 when the panel members will meet representatives of all the concerned central ministries.

This delay as well as the fact that the government has not yet been able to dent the Opposition’s resistance to its Bill, committee members said, makes it very unlikely that the panel’s report will be submitted by July 28.

Different multipliers

Meanwhile, the Congress’s letter, explaining the rationale for the provision in the 2013 Act, says that the sliding scale adopted for rural areas — two to four times — “was finalised keeping in view the demand expressed by different political parties that flexibility should be given to state governments in this matter subject to certain minimum norms to be prescribed by the Central Government.”

The letter then stresses that over the past year, different state governments were notifying different multipliers. Maharashtra, for instance, was giving just roughly twice the amount in rural areas. “This was recognised by the Bombay High Court,” the letter points out, “as an incorrect application of the legislative intention and set aside in March of this year.”

This made the Congress realise that the sliding scale of compensation it had suggested for rural areas in the 2013 Act’s provision had led to state governments manipulating the provision. Realising that the system is likely to be manipulated “by unscrupulous state agencies”, the Congress has suggested to the panel to go one step further and make the compensation a uniform four times the highest available market value in both urban and rural areas.”

Four times the highest market value of land, regardless of urban or rural area, should be paid, say MPs on JPC