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Govt unveils draft Land Acquisition Bill

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Amid a raging controversy over land acquisition, the government today unveiled a new draft Bill putting in place a transparent, legal framework aimed at giving adequate compensation to land owners and ensuring rehabilitation of those displaced.

The much-awaited 'The Draft National Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation & Resettlement Bill, 2011', which has been put in public domain, says "in case of urban areas, the award amount would be not less that twice that of the market value determined whereas in rural areas it would be not less that six times the original market value".

The draft Bill proposes that the consent of 80% of the project-affected families will be mandatory if the government acquires land for use by private companies for stated public purpose or PPP projects other than that for national highway.

It also states that the public purpose once stated cannot be changed.

The draft suggests that under no circumstances should multi-cropped, irrigated land be acquired. Most of such land lies in the Indo-Gangetic plains covering Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar.

Also government will not be acquiring land for private companies for private purpose.

Observing that land markets in India are "imperfect", Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said his foreword to the draft that there is asymmetry of power and information between those wanting to acquire the land and those whose lands are being acquired.

"That is why there has to be a role for the government to put in place a transparent and flexible set of rules and regulations and to ensure its enforcement," he said.

The draft Bill authorises the government to invoke "urgency clause" to acquire land in the cases of national defence and security purposes, rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) needs in the event of emergencies or natural calamities and in any "rarest of rare" cases.

The salient features of the draft Bill include a comprehensive rehabilitation package for land owners and livelihood losers, including the landless who are primarily dependent on the land being acquired.

It entails subsistence allowance at Rs 3,000 per month per family for 12 months and Rs 2,000 per family as annuity for 20 years, with appropriate index for inflation. It also makes it mandatory to provide employment to one member of family or Rs 2 lakh if a job is not offered and other incentives.

For land owners, it also has a provision of one acre of land in the command area (of the project) for each family if their land has been acquired for an irrigation project.

In case of land acquisition for urbanisation, 20% of developed land will be reserved and offered to the owners in proportion to the land taken.

If a tribal's land is acquired, one acre of land should be given to each Scheduled Tribes' family in every project. It also says one time financial assistance of Rs 50,000 should also be given to the ST families, whose land is taken.

Ramesh said the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation & Resettlement have been combined in one Bill as they are two sides of the same coin.

Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) had recommended the government to combine the two.

"R&R must always, in each instance necessarily follow upon acquisition of land. Not combining the two- R&R and land acquisition- within one law, risks neglect of R&R. This has, indeed, been the experience thus far," Ramesh said, adding the the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 has become archaic.

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First Published: Fri, July 29 2011. 21:01 IST