Jairam Ramesh with Ratan Tata at a meeting in New Delhi on Monday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Sept. 3: Union minister Jairam Ramesh today described the proposed land acquisition bill as the “political agenda” of the Congress and said it would be reintroduced in the winter session of Parliament with no “significant” change.
Five ministers had blocked the amended land acquisition bill in the cabinet last week on the ground that its provisions would stall industrialisation and urbanisation.
“The land acquisition bill is the political agenda of the Congress Party. The bill will be reintroduced with no change in the basic structure. The Prime Minister is in favour of this bill,” said Ramesh, the minister for land resources and rural development.
“But the political agenda has to be tempered with the economic realities. That is what we have done in this bill,” Ramesh added.
Last week, the cabinet did not clear the Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill after the five ministers felt several provisions in the bill were “anti-industry”.
Commerce minister Anand Sharma, urban development minister Kamal Nath, highways minister C.P. Joshi, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh and corporate affairs minister Veerappa Moily opposed the bill saying it may stall development and urbanisation.
The urban development minister had objected to a proposal for social impact assessment (SIA). The proposed bill provides for SIA as the first step before land acquisition. The SIA involves procedures like survey by district administration on the size of the land to be acquired and people to be affected. The local administration will have to notify the intent for acquisition.
Nath had said mandatory SIA would make acquisition complicated, cumbersome and time-consuming. He also has reservations about the compensation package.
But Ramesh said today: “SIA is the heart of the bill. Under no circumstance can it be abandoned. There will be no change to the R&R (rehabilitation and resettlement) and compensation package in the bill. These are the basic structure of the bill and there will be no compromise. There will be no significant change in the bill.”
The commerce minister had opposed the move to bring acquisition for special economic zones (SEZs) under the ambit of the new bill.
But Ramesh said: “Most of the disputes about indiscriminate acquisition pertain to SEZs. The land acquisition law will apply to SEZs.”
Moily had said the bill would affect the process of industrialisation. But Ramesh said the proposed law would balance growth and the interests of the poor.
“Social activists like Medha Patekar and others raise concern about the life and livelihood of people losing land for development projects. Industry bodies demand smooth acquisition of land for development. We have taken the middle path to balance both,” Ramesh said.
Joshi had said highways should be exempt. Ramesh said linear projects like highways and railways have been given exemption.
Ramesh said the Prime Minister has a few concerns —such as the bureaucracy should not have a big role in land acquisition and scope for corruption should be checked.
Asked if the Trinamul Congress has any issue with the bill, Ramesh answered in the negative and said the state governments have been given full freedom to decide whether they would be involved in the acquisition for private industry or not.
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been saying that the government should keep away from acquisition for industry. “It is up to the state governments to decide whether they want to be involved in acquisition or not,” Ramesh said.