New bill to check land grabbing

New bill to check land grabbing

Talking to Deccan Herald at his residence here, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) Leader and Lok Sabha MP Ajit Singh said the proposed land acquisition act would clearly define "public purpose" to prevent land grabbing for profit making.

"Construction of a high-rise or a golf-course is presently also defined as public purpose," said the influential Jat leader who is expected to join the Union cabinet.  "The state should act as facilitators and not as real estate agents," he said. Politicians are making money by acquiring land and giving it to industrialists. The new land acquisition act proposes to remove aspects of the current act that deals with acquisition of land for companies, primarily to avoid misuse. Singh said consultations were held on the draft bill with CPM leader Prakash Karat, CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan, Janata Dal (S) President Deve Gowda and opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha and BJP leader Arun Jaitley.  Bardhan has already committed his party's support to the proposed bill, he said.

 The proposed definition of "public purpose will include projects largely state funded. However, the act will also consider genuine concerns of private enterprises wanting to execute projects useful to public by authorising the state to acquire up to 15 per cent of the total land required.

 The draft bill, the MP said, has a section for mandatory assessment of social impact—mass physical displacement of a hundred or more families in plain area and 25 or more families in hilly/tribal /desert area—for taking care of the adverse impact of land acquisition on the families. Rehabilitation of the displaced families will be done on a priority basis, Singh said. He said the new bill will address crucial issues such as removing disparity in the buying and selling of land and reducing the time taken to settle land disputes. The bill, according to Singh, will have provisions for a divisional tribunal headed by a retired high court judge to speed up land acquisition cases.
Singh said the UP government has acquired 20 lakh hectares of land comprising 2,000 villages of Agra, Mathura, Hathras and Aligarh for "industrial development which  has not been clearly defined."  He said acquisition of fertile land for industrial purposes is having a serious impact on "national food security."

The draft bill, the RLD leader said, provides for issuing notice of acquisition to all land holders "at the very initial stage." It will restrict "the extraordinary urgency powers" of the State to acquire land by limiting it to "exceptional circumstances" and with additional compensation of hundred per cent of the market value. The draft also provides that the land is not diverted to any other use. If it remained unutilised for a five-year period it will be returned to the owner.