Both Houses of Parliament passed the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill last week. The new Act replaces the over a century old Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and seeks to bring in compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement along with acquisition under one umbrella legislation. The Bill was earlier called the Land Acquisition, Resettlement nd Rehabilitation Bill when it was first introduced in Lok Sabha in September 2011.
Speaking to reporters here, Ramesh said the idea was to convey the essence of what the government was trying to say and it was Gandhi who was responsible for changing the title of the Bill. He said Gandhi was of the view that the essential thing is right to fair compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement package which needed to be highlighted.
Claiming that land acquisition is the root cause of Maoist problem in the country, Ramesh said a “humane, sensitive and responsible” land acquisition policy would help tackle several problems related to Left Wing Extremism.
Ramesh said it was a fact that many of the tribals had been displaced because of acquisition and had not got proper compensation, or any rehabilitation and resettlement. “Companies must also learn to be sensitive... Indian companies still believe that they can use government to forcibly acquire land. That era is gone. You cannot do forcible acquisition,” Ramesh said, adding people were now much more empowered and aware of their rights.
Lashing out at the public sector companies, Ramesh said the record of the public sector in displacements has been “worst than that of the private sector”. “This is a sad truth that more displacement has been caused by the government and public sector projects than private sector projects,” he said, adding that Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa were prime examples of this, which is why Naxalism had grown in these areas.
According to Ramesh, this Act protects the interests of the farmers, tribals, Dalits and the livelihood losers and is hence, in national interest. The legislation has come under criticism of the industry which claims it will escalate land costs and delay projects.
Talking about the relevance of the new legislation in the forthcoming elections, Ramesh said it will certainly be part of the Congress election campaign. He said food security and land acquisition will be big issues when the party goes to the people.