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Land acquisition: Ramesh rejects panel’s suggestions
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 18
The government appears in no mood to pay heed to a Parliamentary panel’s key recommendation that the state should stay away from acquiring land for private businesses.

Asserting that the government must have a role in land acquisition as private companies help fulfill public interest, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh today categorically said “the priority of the government was to facilitate, revive and restore economic growth and not depress investor sentiments”.

He was responding to the department-related Standing Committee’s recommendations on Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LA&RR) Bill 2011. Those questioned the “anomalous” practice of the government acquiring land for even private and PPP enterprises, thereby inviting worried reactions from the industry. “Industrialisation and urbanisation are both inevitable and desirable. We must realise that we are not at a stage when the government’s role can be abandoned,” Ramesh said.

“The priority of the government is to facilitate, revive and restore economic growth and not depress investor sentiments. At a time when investor sentiment is uncertain and economic growth is under pressure, we need a law to end uncertainties. I, for one, would ensure that whatever law we present facilitates economic growth and not hinders it,” he said.

Also supporting the PPP mode for infrastructure projects, Ramesh said the notion that private companies only served private interest was incorrect.

In its report in Parliament on Wednesday, the Committee said the government should not acquire land for private businesses and stressed on a clearer definition of “public purpose” in this regard. It also wondered why India should persist with the “anomalous” practice of procuring land for private enterprises, PPP enterprises and even public enterprises.

Though Ramesh refrained from openly striking down any recommendation mooted by the panel headed by Sumitra Mahajan of the BJP, (he even promised to include some suggestions in the new Bill that he planned to move in the monsoon session), the direction and shape the legislation would henceforth take is more or less clear.

Ramesh said his ministry would go to the Cabinet after incorporating the panel’s “acceptable suggestions” and holding consultations with states.

He also made it clear that the panel’s recommendations were not “binding” on the government in any way. “However, wherever they are not acceptable, we will give reasons,” he said.

Industry majors have already given a thumbs-down to the committee’s recommendations, saying those would adversely affect the industry, especially the manufacturing sector.

“The Land Acquisition & Rehabilitation & Resettlement Bill 2011 had rightly included industry in the definition of “public purpose” as industry equally contributes in creating wealth and employment for the country,” CII President Adi Godrej said.

“This will make land acquisition more complex and difficult, leading to slower growth in industry and, therefore, the economy… The Standing Committee has recommended a ban on the acquisition of agricultural land for PPP projects. This would be detrimental to the cause of infrastructure development in the agrarian states,” he added.

The LA&RR Bill will replace the 127-year-old Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act, 1984. It may include some suggestions made by the panel regarding acquisitions in tribal areas and the role of gram panchayats. Sources, however, say not many changes are expected from the Bill put before the Parliament last year, just ahead of the UP Assembly elections.

Also, the government has key ally Mamata Banerjee’s nod to the Bill that was fast-tracked to benefit Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s UP agenda in the wake of the Bhatta-Parsaul incident.

Even though a TMC member in the committee has raised some objections, it is unlikely that the UPA would pay heed to those. According to Ramesh, “Mamata Banerjee was fully in support of the Bill presented to the Parliament last year.

Regarding the Committee’s demand that all provisions in the LARR Bill 2011 regarding “irrigated multi-cropped land” to be replaced by “any land under agriculture cultivation” as a safeguard for food security, Ramesh said he would consult Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to address the concerns. Besides, there were states like Punjab, Kerala and West Bengal, where most land was fertile and multi-cropped.


n State should stay away from acquiring land for private businesses

n Panel stresses on clearer definition of “public purpose”

n It also wonders why India should persist with the “anomalous” practice of procuring land for private enterprises, PPP enterprises and even public enterprises

What Ramesh wants

n The government must have a role in land acquisition

n Its role must be confined to “public purpose” but it should be able to involve private companies on occasions such as promoting infra projects like airports and power plants

n Compensation must be fair and equitable





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