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New land Bill allows states to script own role

Saubhadra Chatterji  |  New Delhi 

Proposes that the percentage of land to be acquired by state agencies should be decided by their governments.

The modified Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill is likely to suggest giving state governments the power to determine their roles in acquiring land for industry.

Also, in a positive for farmers, the Bill proposes that if the land remains unused for five years, it should be automatically returned to them. If sold to a third party, 80 per cent “unearned profit” should be shared with the farmers or their heirs, it says.

States to determine their power to acquire land for industry
Land not used for five years will be returned to farmers
Agricultural land can be acquired only as a last resort
Land owners will get shares of the acquiring company
Full compensation payment before acquiring land

After a delay of three years, the UPA government is giving final shape to the contentious Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill. Sources in the rural development ministry told Business Standard the modified draft Bill had been sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. After this, it will be placed before the cabinet.

In a shift from the original draft, which proposed to give states the power to acquire 30 per cent land after private parties bought the rest, the new draft says, “The extent of percentage to be acquired … of the total land required may be left to the states.”

The National Advisory Council, headed by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, has suggested limiting the role of the private sector in land acquisition.

The draft Bill also says that agricultural land, especially under assured irrigation, and multi-crop land should be acquired only as a “last resort.” If such land is acquired, development of parallel wasteland should be mandatory, it says.

The states may also have to assure that minimum land is acquired for private projects.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been emphasising the need to look afresh at the issue. “That process (of land acquisition) has to be equitable, and one way to ensure that is to ensure that land acquisition does not become an instrument of depriving our farmers of their livelihood,” Singh said on return from his recent Africa visit.

As suggested by him, the Bill proposes that the landowners be offered stakes in companies which build projects on their land. They may also be given compensation in the form of shares and debentures, it says.

The supplementary Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill also suggests giving jobs to people from the displaced families.

The amended draft also proposes that compensation be based on the average of last three years’ highest prices and take into consideration the intended use of the land that is being acquired. The states should be allowed to fix floor rates as well, it says.

Deviating from the original draft, the solatium is proposed to be increased from 30 per cent of the market value to 60 per cent. In emergency acquisitions, it should be 75 per, says the draft. The new Bill also has provision for emergency acquisition which can be used only for defence and national security purposes. Taking a cue from the Haryana model, there is a suggestion that a part of the acquired land be developed and returned to farmers as part of compensation.

The original Bill had faced stiff resistance from Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, the biggest ally of the Congress in the government. The new draft has included Banerjee’s key suggestions. The land department of the rural development ministry sent the draft to the Prime Minister’s Office two weeks ago, when Banerjee met the prime minister after her emphatic win in the West Bengal assembly elections. The land department is headed by Minister of State Shishir Adhikari, who belongs to the Trinamool Congress.

First Published: Fri, June 03 2011. 00:29 IST