Breakthrough in Land Acquisition Bill; BJP agrees

Breakthrough in Land Acquisition Bill; BJP agrees
New Delhi:  The Land Acquisition Bill will finally be tabled in Parliament in this session, with the government managing a "broad consensus" at an all-party meeting today; the BJP has said it will back the bill to keep the land mafia out.

"I gave 12 suggestions and the government agreed to almost all," the BJP's Sushma Swaraj said.

The government has agreed to provision for states to enact their own law, as leasing of land is a state subject, and to impose limits on acquisition of agricultural land. It has also accepted the BJP demand that instead of acquisition, land can be leased to developers so that its ownership remains with the farmers and they get a regular income from it.

The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2011 seeks to strengthen the rights of landowners during acquisition of land for development and ensure proper rehabilitation and compensation for them. It also seeks to address problems of industry in this process.

"Largely there has been consensus. The bill will now move to the Lok Sabha where the Business Advisory Committee will allot time for debate and discussion," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said.

The parties have agreed that landowners will get four times the market value in rural areas and twice the market value in urban areas when their land is acquired.

The BJP has promised that it will not oppose the Bill, but the Left and DMK emerged from the meeting still unhappy. They want the bill to provide that all landowners in an area must agree to give up their land before it is acquired for any project. The other parties have agreed that the consent of at least 70% landowners is needed for a public-private project and that of 80% for a private project.

The Left has warned that unless the government accepts its amendments, it will press for voting in Parliament.

The bill looks very different now than it did when Parliament sent it to a standing committee last year. Ministries insisted on changes to provisions which were perceived as hurdles to investment and industry, which has said that the terms of compensation and rehabilitation that the bill provides for are very steep.

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