The Cabinet today cleared the controversial Land Acquisition Bill, which also addresses disputed takeovers of the past and seeks to resolve these.
The renamed Bill — The Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill — emphasises compensation for all land acquired and seeks to apply this with retrospective effect in all cases where takeovers are disputed or compensation is pending or disputed, sources said.
The proposed law is to apply to all ongoing land acquisitions where an award has yet to be made under the existing Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The new compensation package would also apply where payments have been announced but possession not taken or compensation not paid or accepted under protest.
Acquisition would be considered lapsed if possession had not been taken or compensation not paid for five years before the new law comes into force. The other important feature is a requirement for consent of 80 per cent of the land losers in any takeover by governments for private projects and 70 per cent of land-losers in acquisitions for public-private partnership projects. No consent is required in any takeover for government projects
Another highlight of the new Bill, to be tabled in Parliament on Monday, is inclusion of landless people who have been tilling on acquired land. The Group of Ministers reviewing the draft had initially excluded such people from compensation. In the final version approved in the Cabinet, the landless are also eligible for compensation, like the landowners.
The compensation would be mostly in cash (double the market price near urban areas and going up to four times in rural areas), with components such as development of basic amenities in the area where land losers are rehabilitated. There is also provision for jobs in the projects for kin of those affected, as well as allocation of 20 per cent of the land for the impacted people in urbanisation projects .
In forest areas and scheduled areas, acquisition is to be with the consent of the gram sabha, as specified in the Forest (Rights) Act.
National Advisory Council member N C Saxena, who drafted the earlier version before it was changed on recommendations for a parliamentary standing committee, rapped the final version. He said the Bill was poorly drafted and was impracticable, a pro-bureaucratic document which would help neither farmers nor industry.
For an acquisition of an acre of land, it would take at least three years under this law, he said. The law provides for consent seeking as a first step, which means nothing without first negotiating the compensation, he said.
Activist Medha Patkar said the new Bill did show a perceptible change in approach to the issue of land acquisition with regard to private projects, which was welcome. But why should the governemnt leave itself out when it came to taking consent for land acquisition for fovernment projects, she demanded. She also objected to acquisition of agricultural land.