Govt may allow states to decide on industry share in land acquisition

Though the Bill was shelved in 2009 due to strong opposition by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is understood to have recently prodded the Minister of Rural Development Vilas Rao Deshmukh to present the proposed legislation before the Union Cabinet soon.

The Department of Land Resources of the Ministry of Rural Development prepared the draft Bill, which seeks to amend the archaic and allegedly draconian Land Acquisition Act of 1894. Deshmukh said that the Bill, along with a new cabinet note as well as a fresh set of suggestions, was ready to be presented before the Union Cabinet.

“We are keen to introduce the Bill in the Parliament during the Monsoon Session,” said the minister.

“We must have a new law for land acquisition. Consensus building has taken some time. But I can say with a fair degree of certainty that there is a consensus now,” Home Minister P Chidambaram told journalists.

While efforts are likely to be made to address some of the concerns of Banerjee, the top brass of the UPA  hopes that the All India Trinamool Congress chief may not be as vocal against the proposed legislation now as she had been in 2009 and 2010. With 19 MPs in the Lok Sabha, the AITC is the ruling UPA’s second largest constituent after the Congress.

The AITC is particularly opposed to the proposed legislation’s provision that seeks to allow industry to acquire 70 per cent of the land required to set up a plant directly from the farmers and get the rest with the help of the government. Banerjee wants the industry to acquire the entire land at market price.

Highly-placed sources said that the government might modify the proposed Bill to allow the respective state governments to frame their own rules and decide if they should completely leave it to the industry to acquire the entire land, or do their bit too.

Banerjee was opposed to the Bill particularly because she felt that it went against the political commitments she had made while leading the stir against land acquisition in Nandigram and Singur and that its passage in the Parliament might put her AITC in disadvantage in West Bengal assembly polls.

It was the agitation at Nandigram and Singur that helped the AITC ride a wave against the 34-year-old CPM-led Left Front Government in West Bengal.  Sources in the AITC, however, said that the party might continue to seek modifications in certain provisions of the proposed legislation, even if it softened its stand on the Bill. The party is likely to insist that the Bill must ensure that private developers cannot force farmers to part with fertile land. The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007 was passed by the Lok Sabha on February 25, 2009.

 But it could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha and eventually lapsed with the dissolution of the 14th Lok Sabha.

Stir takes its toll on wedding

Bhatta and  Parsaul villages may have got their share of limelight after Rahul Gandhi reached there dodging security, but the farmers’ agitation has affected the weddings in the area.A lot of brides and grooms have been hit hard and are unable to enjoy the most important moments of their life.A wedding at Parsaul village on Wednesday was reflective of the prevailing mood.

“The marriage ceremony was over in less than an hour with just 15 people present,” reports said. The marriage of Reena of Parsaul village had been fixed with Kushal Singh of Aligarh six months ago. All arrangements were in place, but the agitation ruined everything. “We had paid the advance for horse cart, lighting, tent and catering but none of them turned up,” said Reena’s mother.

“My daughter could not even go to the beauty parlour for the big day,” she said. Incidentally, when the bride and groom were taking rounds of the sacred fire, Rahul Gandhi was listening to farmers barely metres away from the venue. Many other weddings will also meet the same fate if the situation in the two villages does not improve.

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