The Land Bill is said to be a pet project of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi
New Delhi: After scoring a major victory by getting its landmark food security scheme cleared by the Lok Sabha this week, the government hopes today to push through another reform that could serve as a mega vote-getter in the national elections. Voting on amendments to the land acquisition bill is on in Parliament right now.
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The proposal establishes new rules for compensation for land acquired for infrastructure projects and industry, a move seen as raising costs but potentially reducing protests that have plagued India's industrialisation drive.
The legislation replaces a more-than-century-old law and has been championed by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, and is seen as a key to the party winning votes in 2014 elections. Both Mr Gandhi and his mother, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, were present for the debate.
The most important feature of the bill is that it requires developers to get the consent of up to 80 per cent of people whose land is acquired for private projects. For public-private partnerships, the approval of 70 per cent of landowners is mandatory.
Land acquisition in states like Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for factories, roads and housing projects has sparked bitter clashes between farmers and state authorities, resulting in huge project delays.
The proposal asks for compensation of up to four times the market value of land in rural areas and two times the value in urban parts.
Business lobbies say they welcome land acquisition reform but fear the measure could push up property purchase costs by at least 40 to 60 per cent, making industrial projects financially unviable and sharply escalating housing costs.
A broad consensus was reached at a meeting between the government and the opposition on the main features of the bill in April. The government agreed to the demand of the main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, that land could be leased to developers so its ownership could remain with the landowners and give them a regular income.
The legislation includes resettlement and new skills training for people whose land is acquired.
Activists say the bill does not go far enough, and offers no safeguards about the protection of vast areas of common land.
The land bill is part of a string of reforms initiated by the government to draw more investment and kickstart growth before the 2014 elections.