Jairams Bill: Govt can take land for pvt projects

Written by Ashish Sinha | Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 6 2012, 07:48am hrs
Despite the relevant parliamentary standing committees unequivocal No to government acquiring land for projects involving private money, Jairam Rameshs rural development ministry plans to seek the Cabinets nod for a proposal to allow such acquisition with caveats: The project should be in public interest; 80% of affected families must give their consent; and post-acquisition, land ownership must rest with the government.

The move which aims to make more land available for projects in a country where public funds dont match investment needs is likely to be hailed by industry as pragmatic. However, even after a Cabinet nod, it might be stalled in Parliament. The government and Opposition may well be on a collision course over the modified version of the land acquisition Bill which was opposed even by ally Trinamool Congress.

In May, the standing committee on rural development headed by BJP MP Sumitra Mahajan said the government should not buy land for PPP projects or for private firms even when public interest is involved.

The committee said this while vetting the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Bill, 2011. The House panel had also sought a ban on acquisition of all farm land for industrial purpose.

Sources said the rural development ministry will also seek to rename the Bill as the Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill, 2012.

The panel also recommended that land acquisition for any purpose should meet conditions prescribed in the current legislation, which means doing away with exemptions granted to land acquisition under 16 earlier Acts listed in the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution. This suggestion has been partially accepted by the ministry, which means the proposed law will encompass many areas which were earlier left out. According to an official, the land bill for the purpose it is meant for, will prevail over the SEZ Act, 2005, Works of Defence Act 1903 and Cantonments Act, 2006.

All other central Acts will be amended within 24 months to align with the land bill.

The panel had also recommended that multi-cropped irrigated land should be acquired only as a last resort. Irrigated multi-cropped land be replaced by any land under agriculture cultivation, the committee stated.

Opposing the recommendation, Ramesh recently said: We need projects under the PPP model for faster and more equitable economic growth and we need to discuss the issue with states to arrive at a conclusion. Sources said the Prime Minister would call a meeting of chief ministers before giving the final nod to the LARR Bill.

While the earlier version of the Bill suggested compensation equal to six times the market value of land as suggested by National Advisory Council and Rahul Gandhi, the final Bill drafted by the rural development ministry, after getting inputs from all stakeholders brought down the compensation amount to four times the market value. The Bill was introduced in the Parliament in September last year and was subsequently referred to the standing committee.

The cost of land acquisition should not be prohibitive; instead it support rapid expansion of infrastructure through setting up of industries, Ramesh had stated.

The proposed law seeks to replace the 117-year-old Land Acquisition bill of 1894 and for the first time, integrates both land acquisition and resettlement & rehabilitation. In its earlier attempt, the UPA government had passed two separate Bills Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill in February 2009; however both lapsed since the Rajya Sabha did not pass the Bills.

Project Push

* House panel against govt buying land even in case of public interest

* Ramesh for govt buying land for public interest projects, with consent

* PPP model aids faster, equitable economic growth, says ministry