GoM clears land acquisition bill

GoM clears land acquisition bill

The Land Acuisition Bill will have a provision for consent of two-third of land owners for acquiring land but no contentious retrospective clause as per the draft approved by a Group of Ministers today after overcoming sharp differences.

The final draft of the long-delayed bill will now be placed before the Union Cabinet and is likely to be introduced in the winter session of Parliament.

The draft of the bill approved by the Sharad Pawar-headed GoM now proposes consent of two-thirds of "land losers" (from whom land would be purchased) for acquiring land for public-private-partnership and private projects for public purpose, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said.

"The basic structure remains. Two-thirds consent of land owners is essential for PPP and for private projects for public purpose. There was consensus that the two-thirds consent clause should be there.

"Only after the two-thirds consent, the government acquires land for PPP or private projects for public purpose. Social Impact Assessment (SIA) provision remains," Ramesh said after the meeting.

It has no retrospective clause and instead there will be a cut-off date to be decided later, he said.

"There is no clause about retrospective effect. You cannot have two laws operating at the same time. You cannot have one type of acquisition taking place under the 1894 Act and another sort taking place under the new Act. Therefore, we have to now think of a mechanism. We will have a cut-off date," Ramesh said.

The GoM has been divided on these aspects, with a number of ministers opposing the retrospective clause as well as the original proposal for 80 per cent consent by both "livelihood losers and land losers" before land could be acquired.

"The bill is finalised. We have finalised the draft," said Pawar after an hour-long meeting of the panel on 'The Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition' Bill.

"Each and every issue on which there were different views, we succeeded in bringing some understanding," he told reporters.

Ramesh said the GoM has a "very strong view" that the relief and rehabilitation provisions in the present Act that are in Schedule IV is brought at par with the bill. This bill is fully in compliance with both Panchayat Extension for Schedule Areas Act and Forest Rights Act.

Schedule IV refers to the mineral-rich forest areas dominated by tribals. The Bill says the central government can, by notification, give the compensation and relief and rehabilitation to those in Schedule IV on par with the Land Acquisition Bill.

"It is a very progressive law. What we are saying is, as far as possible, no acquisition of land shall be made in Schedule Areas (where tribal population is very large)...if such acquisition takes place, it shall be done as a demonstrable last resort," Ramesh said.

He said approval of gram sabha and other such institutions like panchayat will be required for acquiring land in Scheduled Areas.

The law will also apply to Special Economic Zones," he said.
Ramesh also said there is no change in the provisions regarding compensation package, relief and rehabilitation package and no change in Social Impact Assessment.

Pawar said the bill will be placed before the Cabinet after minutes of the GoM meetings are circulated along with suggestions if any member has.

GoM members, including Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Road Transport Minister C P Joshi and Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath were opposed to certain clauses, arguing these could keep away investors.

Defence Minister A K Antony, who is also a part of the GoM, had said at the last meeting that the government should stay away from helping private parties in acquiring land and step in to help PPP projects only when absolutely necessary.

The government had constituted the GoM about a month ago after some ministers voiced strong reservations against certain provisions of the Bill at a Cabinet meeting.

The Bill was introduced in Parliament in September last year and was referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee which submitted its recommendations in May.
The Bill has been hanging fire since long even though the National Advisory Council headed by Sonia Gandhi has been pushing for the law and has framed its broad contours.

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