Congress Vice president Rahul Gandhi leaves Parliament after Land Acquisition Bill was passed in Lok Sabha
New Delhi: The Lok Sabha tonight passed the Land Acquisition Bill, seen as yet another potential vote-getter for the ruling Congress, much like the Food Security Bill cleared by the House earlier this week.
Here are the latest developments in the story:
The Bill was passed through a division of votes - out of the 235 members who voted on the bill, 216 backed it while 19 voted against it. "I am quite happy," said Congress Number 2 Rahul Gandhi, who has championed the legislation, which replaces a more-than-century-old law.
The BJP, which supported the Bill with certain amendments, in an unusual move, praised Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh while the bill was being debated earlier in the day. "Like the way he has pursued this Bill," senior leader Sushma Swaraj said to thumping of desks by BJP members.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose Samajwadi Party lends crucial external support to the central government, had earlier stridently opposed the legislation, and said during the debate that the consent of the farmer was key to any land acquisition move. His party, though, voted with the government.
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 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 BJP's demand that land could be leased to developers so its ownership could remain with the landowners and give them a regular income.
Activists say the bill does not go far enough, and offers no safeguards about the protection of vast areas of common land.