The group of ministers (GoM) on the land acquisition Bill on Tuesday agreed to present the draft legislation before the Cabinet in two weeks. The GoM would go through some consultation and tying up of loose ends at a meeting this week between Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who is also the GoM chairman.
The minutes of the GoM would be released and views of all members will be taken.
A meeting this week would finalise the draft, Pawar said after the meeting. He said there was no unanimity yet but the issues would be sorted. Ramesh called the Bill a progressive one at this stage and said there was general agreement on most issues, with just minor changes remaining to be done.
|HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DRAFT BILL|
One major difference of opinion was over acquisition for private projects meant for public purposes and for public-private partnerships. While the original draft wanted consent of 80 per cent of landowners before any acquisition, on Tuesday it was decided to stick to consent of two-thirds. There was overwhelming consensus for a two-thirds consent, a minister said.
Defence Minister A K Antony had in the last GoM expressed reservation against acquisition for any private project. He did not attend the GoM on Tuesday.
The ministers have also broadly agreed on the issue of when the new law would be effective. Finance Minister P Chidambaram pointed out at the GoM that two laws should not be in operation simultaneously. So, it was decided to have a cut-off for the Land Acquisition Act to lapse and the new law to kick in, a member of the GoM said. The date would be decided at the Pawar-Ramesh meeting. The Bill would now no longer be effective in a retrospective way except from the cut-off date, sources said.
Another important decision taken on Tuesday was that the SEZ Act and two defence Acts — Cantonments Act and Works of Defence Act — mentioned in the draft Bill would come under the new law as soon as it came into force. At the same time, the remaining 13 central laws concerning land acquisition would be required to be at par with the relief and rehabilitation clauses of the new law within one or two years of its coming into force.
A clause that again has been accepted by all concerned was regarding the acquisition of land in Scheduled V and VI areas. There was opposition initially to the requirement to seek approval of local bodies and the gram sabhas for this. Now it has been unanimously agreed to make it mandatory to get the approval of gram sabhas before any land is acquired, sources in the GoM said.
The clauses pertaining to scheduled areas ensure that as far as possible, no acquisition will be made in these. And, where it is done, it must be only as a demonstrable last resort. The approval of the gram sabha and other local bodies would be required for such acquisitions.
There was also agreement regarding retaining the compensation package. Compensation would comprise market rates in urban areas and twice the market rate up to 20 km. The decision in this matter was left to states.