M A I N   N E W S

Land acquisition Bill: States will have their say
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, September 1
When Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh pushed the historic Land Acquisition Bill in Lok Sabha, which cleared it on August 29, he did a balancing act to ensure that the new law was as flexible as possible and allowed a free hand to Chief Ministers of states.

He, however, did not allow any state to force its opinion on the other and was firm in rejecting demands of uniform applicability of the law or attempts to have clauses which were good for one state but may not be acceptable to others.

Setting the tone, Jairam Ramesh said: “This is a national act but must have flexibility. The conditions in each of the states vary and it would be impossible to have a uniform law made here sitting in Delhi.”

The minister addressed issues which gave states more power on land acquisition issues than what the British-era Act of 1894 had given. The British Act was iron-cast with one rule applying across the country. It meant that highly expensive Gurgaon was no different from back-of-the-beyond Gorakhpur when the area District Collector applied the law for compensation.

The states now have the freedom to choose what category of lands can be acquired. The Chief Ministers will decide on formation of land banks, have a final say in leasing lands from farmers and also on what percentage of farmers have to give a consent when lands are acquired for private or public-private projects. On the other hand, the minister was firm when he listed out the Centre’s powers in framing such a law. “I had to listen to states and their Chief Ministers,” the minister said in response to a question by BJP’s Rajnath Singh. Leasing was suggested by Sushma Swaraj.

Jairam said: “The finer points of the leasing terms and conditions have been left to the states.” The original Bill of 2011 prohibited the acquisition of lands that yielded two crops annually and were fully irrigated. This was changed at the behest of Punjab, Haryana and Kerala, said the minister. The Mamta Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) was favouring a total ban on acquiring. TMC’s Saugata Roy said: “That was the best thing. Why did you change it?”

Jairam retorted: “We cannot make a policy which is not acceptable to Punjab, Haryana, Kerala. We will leave it to the state government. So, if West Bengal wants to say that no multi-crop irrigated land should be acquired, it is free to say so. If Punjab and Haryana do not have any other lands, we leave it to them”.

The TMC was keen on having its way on the ceiling for seeking consent of farmers. The Bill said 80 per cent of farmers need to give consent. The TMC insisted that all farmers should give consent.

“If the West Bengal Government wants to have a law which says that 100 per cent consent is required, it is perfectly free to do so. But this Bill cannot be changed any further,” said Jairam.

When AIADMK’s M Thambidurai questioned the competence of the Central Government, Jairam reminded him of the concurrent list of the Constitution and said: “ If Tamil Nadu wants to have a legislation which improves the compensation, you are completely free to do so”.

Nationalistic Congress Party’s and daughter of Sharad Pawar, Supriya Sule, said: “We all support the Bill. I think, industry also needs to be supported. Where are the jobs going to come from if we do not support industry,” Sule asked while giving the example of the upcoming Mumbai International Airport. “People there are asking for Rs 20 crore per acre as compensation,” she said, adding that the issues in developed states were slightly different.

The Bill is expected to be ratified by the Rajya Sabha in the coming days before the President gives his assent and it become a law.





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