Political parties reach consensus on Land Acquisition Bill

Illustration: Anand Naorem
Illustration: Anand Naorem

New Delhi, Apr 18 (PTI): A broad consensus was reached among political parties today over the much-awaited Land Acquisition Bill after the government gave in to a key demand of BJP for 50 per cent compensation to farmers and sorted out certain other sticky issues.

The consensus paves way for consideration and passage of the significant but contentious bill in the second part of the budget session of Parliament beginning Monday.

“We have reached a broad consensus on the Land Acquisition Bill,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told reporters after a 90-minute meeting convened by him.

Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj stated the same with a promise of not opposing the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, in Parliament.

The Bill proposes the payment of compensation that is up to four times the market value in rural areas and two times the market value in urban areas.

BJP wanted 50 per cent compensation to the original farmers whose land has been purchased after the introduction of the bill in Lok Sabha in September 5, 2011.

Raising the issue in the meeting, Swaraj said the “land mafia” was in a land buying spree in many parts of the country after the introduction of the bill, anticipating that the measure will be passed soon and they can reap benefits.

If it happens, the farmers who have sold land at a lesser price will not be benefitted from the Land Acquisition Act, she said and asked the Government to have a provision specifying that there will be sharing of 50 per cent benefit with the original farmers.

Government also agreed to another demand of the BJP, which had suggested that instead of acquisition, land could be leased to developers so that its ownership will remain with the farmers and would provide them with regular annual income.

The government agreed to amend the bill to provide for an enabling provision for states to enact laws in this regard as leasing of land is a state subject.

“The two main points of BJP, we have accepted clearly and categorically.. I think, today all political parties said that we need this bill in this session,” Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said after the meeting.

The meeting also agreed to CPI-M’s demand that a provision of the bill that gives powers to the Government to amend the schedule should not be misused to “dilute the compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement package.”

The party raised apprehension that Government tomorrow might decide that compensation and Resettlement & Rehabilitation (R & R) package are too much and the schedule should be amended to dilute it.

“It is a genuine concern. We have agreed that we would put in a proviso that the power to amend the schedule in such a manner that the existing R & R and compensation does not get diluted,” Ramesh said after the meeting.

Government has also agreed to look into another demand by the CPI-M that tenants should also to get the benefit of compensation.

Now, land owners get the compensation. Tenants only get the benefit of R & R.

“There are some legal complication in this. Certainly we will look into it. We have to see the way how the tenants can be given compensation,” the Minister said responding to a query on CPI-M’s demand.

However, the Left parties and DMK still have reservations on the Bill with the CPI(M) demanding consent of all the families affected due to the acquisition of land.

“There is a lot of dilution from the original Bill. The current version is against the interest of farmers. We will move amendments when the Bill is taken up in Parliament,” CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia told reporters.

DMK leader T R Baalu claimed that the Bill was against the federal structure of the Constitution and his party cannot agree to it.

The DMK, which withdrew support from the UPA last month on the issue of ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka, has been asked to make its suggestions regarding the issues related to the Bill by tomorrow.


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