Indian Land Acquisition Bill finally ready to become a law
The political parties reached a consensus over the much-awaited Land Acquisition Bill after the government gave in to a major demand of Bhartiya Janta Party for 50% compensation to farmers. The objective of the Bill is to address the problems of the industry regarding the acquisition of land for setting up residential projects and industries. The debatable Bill on land acquisition at last enhances compensation for farmers.
“We have reached a broad consensus on the Land Acquisition Bill,” said parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath. Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj also gave an assurance of not opposing the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, in Parliament.
To recap, after the introduction of the Bill in Lok Sabha on September 5, 2011, BJP wanted 50% compensation to the original farmers whose land has been purchased and acquired. However, there had been no agreement between the political parties. The Bill has been a cause of major arguments and differences among the political parties.
The first all-party meet on the Land Acquisition Bill was held on April 9, 2013. The meet had failed to sort out the differences between the government and major parties like the BJP, SP and the Left Front. On April 18, 2013, the meeting was attended by Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, Ramgopal Yadav (SP), D Raja (CPI), B Mahtab (BJD), Sharad Yadav (JD-U), M Thambidurai and V Maitreyan (both AIADMK). Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh represented government in the meeting. Trinamool Congress, Shiv Sena, Akali Dal, RLD and BSP representatives were not present for the meeting.
With the presence of the parties, an agreement was reached and now, the Bill proposes the payment of compensation that is up to four times the market value in rural areas and twice the market value in urban areas. Government also agreed to another demand of the BJP, which had recommended that instead of acquisition, the land could be leased to developers so that its ownership and rights would remain with the farmers and would provide them with a regular annual income.
The Bill further states that consent of 80% of the landowners is required for acquiring a land for any private industry and consent of 70% of landowners is required for public-private projects. Consent is also needed for the compensation that has to be paid to the farmers. The Government has agreed that individual States can pass legislation regarding leasing of land and limits of acquisition.
The government also mentioned that under the Bill relief and rehab benefits will be provided to the families dependent on the acquired land. The SEZs will have to comply with the new norms. The government has also agreed to look into another demand by the CPI (M) that the tenants should also get the profit from the compensation.
Regarding the issue, Swaraj said that the “land mafia” was on a land-purchase spree in many parts of the country after the introduction of the Bill; they had anticipating that the measure will be passed soon and they can reap the benefits. In that case, the farmers who sold the land at a lesser price would not benefit from the Land Acquisition Act; therefore, there was a need for the provision stating the sharing of half the benefits with the original farmers. The new deal states if the land is acquired after September 5, 2011, the compensation is to be split between the current landowner and the one before the date.
Even after the breakthrough in the Bill, there seems to be certain disagreements. “There is a lot of dilution from the original Bill. The current version is against the interest of farmers. We will move amendments when the Bill is taken up in Parliament,” said CPI (M) leader Basudeb Acharia. On the other hand, in view of the industry, hiking the compensation four-fold and the new procedures dealing with landowners’ consent will only push up the costs and delay the projects.
To conclude, all major political parties seemed to have put their seal of approval in view of the “pro-farmer” orientation. The Bill seems to strengthen the rights of the landowners and provide positive terms of compensation and rehabilitation. The agreement makes way for thought and passage of the significant Bill in the second part of the budget session of Parliament beginning today.