The long-pending Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011 is slated to be taken up for passing in the second half of Parliament’s Budget Session beginning on April 22, after the government managed to evolve a broad consensus by accepting most of the changes suggested by the BJP.
After the all-party meeting on Thursday, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said now it was up to the business advisory committee of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha to fix the date and time for the introduction of the Bill.
“There is a broad consensus on the land Bill,” said Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj after the meeting called to work out an acceptable draft of the Bill.
Sushma said the BJP “will support the Bill” as “the government has accepted almost all the 12 suggestion I gave”.
One of the BJP’s major demands was a provision for leasing, instead of acquiring, land so that the ownership of land remains with the landowners who can earn regular annual income from the leases. Sushma said the government has agreed to leave it to individual states to decide on it, as leasing of land comes under the purview of state governments.
The new Bill will replace the archaic Land Acquisition Bill,1894, enacted mostly for acquiring land for railway lines. Though Nath managed to get the BJP on board after a powwow with Sushma, he couldn’t not get an endorsement from his former ally DMK which along with the Left maintained that the Bill needs to be opposed.
While the DMK’s T R Baalu said the current draft violates the federal structure of the Constitution and his party will not support it, CPM’s Basudeb Acharya said the Bill was against the interests of the farmers.
“There is a lot of dilution from the original Bill. We will move amendments when it is taken up in Parliament,” he said. Both the Left and DMK wanted the Bill to have a provision by which consent of all landowners have to be obtained for leasing/acquiring land for any project.
But with the BJP deciding to back the Bill “to keep the land mafia under check”, the government has little to worry.
Other parties, it seems, are supporting the current provision by which consent of 70 per cent of the landowners/farmers was enough for leasing/acquisition of land needed for PPP projects.
Nath said the parties had also agreed to the provision that the landowners will be getting four times the market value in the rural areas and thrice the market value in the urban areas, making land acquisition a tough job.
However the Bill, if passed, will bring the much-needed clarity on issues of land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement. Several multi-crore infrastructure and manufacturing projects, including the government’s own rail, road and freight corridor plans, are stuck at various stages owing to litigation and protests.