New Delhi, Aug 29 (PTI):The much-touted Land Acquisition Bill was taken up in the Lok Sabha today, with UPA ally Samajwadi Party expressing criticism, along with opposition parties, over various provisions of the legislation.
Parties including SP, BJP, BSP, CPI(M) and TMC voiced concern over aspects like adequate remuneration to farmers and the right of farmers to appeal in the bill which seeks to provide “fair and just compensation” to land owners.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav questioned the need for acquiring land of farmers, contending that the bill would “ruin” and “devastate” farmers.
Participating in the debate on the ‘Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012’, he asked, “What is there for farmers except land?”
Yadav, whose party supports UPA government from outside, asked why arable and fertile land is being “targeted” for acquisition.
“When farmers sell land, they (most of the times) do not get remunerative price,” he said, adding that land should not be acquired unless there is requirement, otherwise it would become unproductive.
Initiating the debate, BJP President Rajnath Singh said there are lot of grey areas in the bill.
Despite the proposed bill, there are apprehensions that forcible land acquisition would continue, he added.
Singh said there should be provision for leasing land in the bill. “Lease can happen only when there is consent from the land owner,” he added.
According to him, poor people have been ignored in the bill.
“This is a comparatively better bill. But after studying it in full, I feel the bill is far far away from its objective… This bill is not meeting the objectives it is meant for,” he said.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh moved the ‘Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency’ bill for consideration and passage in the Lower House.
BSP member Surendra Singh Nagar said the government is suddenly remembering the bill and farmers since elections are round the corner.
Meanwhile, Singh wondered why only private companies have to seek prior approval for land acquisition while government projects have been exempted.
“There should be a level playing field (for private and government projects). There should be uniformity,” he stressed.
He also emphasised that social and environmental assessments related to land acquisition should be done in a “time bound manner”.
“If there is any objection, the farmer should have the option for legal recourse… With regard to land acquisition problems, the authority should be at the district level, the grassroot level,” Singh said.
According to Singh, there should be a mechanism to ensure that land in excess of the requirement is not acquired. If that happens, the excess land should be returned.
BSP member Surendra Singh Nagar also said fears about farmers opposing land acquisition are “baseless”.
“If they (farmers) are given adequate compensation, they will never stand in the way of industrialisation,” he said.
Congress member Meenakshi Natrajan said the government should streamline information about land records across the country. Without having proper land records, justice cannot be done, she added.
Describing the bill as historic, Natarajan said it would correct the historic wrong of land owners not getting adequate compensation during land acquisition.
Participating in the debate, Rajeev Ranjan Singh “Lallan” (JD-U) said it was a “toothless bill” with many loopholes which have not been plugged.
He demanded that the bill’s proposal fixing the consent of farmers for acquiring land is 70 per cent and 80 per cent respectively (in both cases) of those whose land is sought to be acquired is against the interest of farmers.
Lallan said that 100 per cent consent should be made mandatory for acquiring land.
When he said that Special Economic Zones are not brought under the ambit of the proposed law, Ramesh said the Government will move amendments that will applicable to SEZ also.
The JD-U MP said that only uncultivable land be acquired for industrial purposes.
Sudip Bandyopadhyay (TMC), while appreciating Ramesh for making lot of efforts in bringing this legislation, said that total recommendations of the standing committee on Rural Development, which scrutinized the bill, should be accepted by the Government.
“Multi-crop land should never be handed over to industry,” he said.
Bandyopadhyay said his party will support the legislation if their demands are met.
TKS Elangovan (DMK) also supported the bill.
Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M) also raised concerns about the land bill, saying it should be referred back to the standing committee as there is a need for further amendments in the draft law.
According to Acharia, the bill does not provides as to how much compensation the farmers will get if his land is acquired.
“There is a need for further amendment in the bill otherwise this will serve the purpose of the corporates. It is not in the interest of the farmers,”
Acharia said, “I had moved 160 amendments in the bill.
But the minister has accepted only six. This indicates that there is no consensus on the bill.”
BJD member Tathagata Satpathy sought compensation and rehabilitation of people living in areas to be acquired other than land owners like barbers who are affected due to land acquisition.
He also pointed out that the compensation under the land acquisition law is not tax free and this is an unnecessary burden on the farmers.
Intervening at this point, Ramesh said, “We will bring an amendment in this regard. All payments (under this law) will be income tax free.”
He also suggested that the industry or corporates should use one third of the acquired land for water harvesting system and this should be made mandatory under this law.
He also suggested that the agriculture land and inhibited land should not be acquired under this law.
Similar concerns were also raised by the Shiv Sena member P G Jadhav who also demanded better compensation for farmers.
Lalu Prasad Yadav (RJD) said the Bill should be enacted for the benefit of farmers and the interference of the government should be limited.
“Private parties are coming to make business and profit.
So the interest of farmers should be safeguarded,” he said, adding farmers should directly negotiate with the industry for the price to be paid for the land.
He also said government interference should come only when an individual comes in the way of the contract.
Others who participated in the debate include Supriya Sule (NCP), M Thambidurai (AIADMK), Nama Nageswara Rao (TDP) and Jayant Chaudhary (Rashtriya Lok Dal).
CPI member Prabodh Panda urged the government to set up a price commission that would decide the value of land that is to be acquired.
Emphasising that the bill should be comprehensive, he said buyers should get 100 per cent consent from the land owners before purchasing the land.
Sharifuddin Shariq (NC) said the land value should be decided based on key factors such as its productivity and future prospects.
Noting that wrong policies of the government has impacted farmers, Hukmdev Narayan Yadav (BJP) said the bill should be comprehensive.
Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM) wanted to know how the bill would be used for acquiring Wakf land. He alleged that the government in Andhra Pradesh has illegally acquired several acres of Wakf land in Hyderabad.
Prasanta Kumar Majumdar (RSP) said he was against certain clauses, including that related to acquisition of multi-crop land. Nripendra Nath Roy (AIFB) and Tarun Mandal (Independent) opposed the bill.
Mandal said the legislation does not solve the problems related to land acquisition.
Supporting the bill, E T Mohammed Basheer (IUML) said it ensures participatory development.
JVM (P) member Ajay Kumar, Vikrambhai Arjanbhai Maadam (Cong) and Putul Kumari (Independent) also participated in the debate.