New Delhi, Aug. 29: The Lok Sabha today passed the land acquisition bill that allows states to adjust features according to their needs and policies, ushering in a new era for takeovers and compensation long stuck in the claws of a 119-year-old British-period legislation.
The new law, for instance, enables Bengal to enhance the designated 80 per cent consent clause for private projects to 100 per cent if it wants.
States can also impose their own restrictions on acquisition of multi-crop land and improve the compensation and resettlement package, but can’t lower it below what the central law offers.
The Trinamul Congress had moved an amendment to delete a clause that said the consent of 70 per cent of land-losers had to be taken for public-private partnership projects and 80 per cent for private projects. The party had argued that the rural development minister’s “pious views” couldn’t be accepted as a legal guarantee.
The government refused to change this provision, asserting that states were free to include the 100 per cent clause.
The Trinamul amendment was defeated conclusively, as only the party’s 19 members voted in favour against the 216 who opposed it.
HOW THE BILL HAS CHANGED
Original: Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill
Now: Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in
Land Acquisition Bill
Original: 80% of land owners and people dependent on land for livelihood must give consent for land acquisition for private industry and PPP projects
Now: For private industry, consent of 80% landowners and people on government assigned land will have to be taken. Consent of people dependent on land for their livelihood not required. For PPP projects, consent of 70% landowners and people on government assigned land must be taken. Government to retain land ownership in PPP projects. States free to increase the consent provision
Original: No such provision
Now: Will apply with retrospective effect to such projects where acquisition process has not been completed when the new law comes into effect
Original: Two years for acquisition
Now: One year
Original: Compensation in urban areas should not be less than twice that of the market value. Compensation in rural areas will not be less than four times the market value
Now: Twice the value in urban areas and twice to four times in rural areas. States free to enhance the package
• Provision added to ensure that speculators who purchase land at a low price do not get benefit
• Tenants living off sharecrop above a certain period will also get compensation. States
to finalise the modalities
Original: Land will be returned to state land bank if unused for 10 years
Now: Five years
Original: Law will not apply to acquisition carried out under 13 other laws
Now: Compensation and rehabilitation as prescribed in the land bill will be applicable to acquisition under the 13 laws
In Calcutta, Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had said during the day that she didn’t believe in “eyewash” policies. “Our policy is that we are not going to acquire land forcibly. Earlier they had said 30 per cent (consent not required), now they are saying 20 per cent. Then what is the point of having a land policy? It is all the same, 30 or 20. This policy is an eyewash. I don’t believe in eyewash policies,” she said. “We have had land protests in the state. We understand land issues better than the others.”
Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh justified the efforts to arrive at a consensus and declared that vital concerns of all stakeholders had been addressed in the final draft rechristened as the Right to Fair Compensation & Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement & Rehabilitation Bill.
He said the government had been compelled to adopt the middle-path after talking to farmers, activists, industry, states and political parties. “It may end up dissatisfying everybody but that’s the peril of the middle-path. Activists are saying this bill is not progressive and industry finds it very harsh. We had to reconcile such divergent views,” he said, justifying the compromises he made to ensure wider support in Parliament.
But for the compromises, which significantly alter the original draft, the landmark legislation wouldn’t have seen the light of day.
Ramesh, who thanked leaders of various parties, including the BJP, for the bill’s passage, ruled out any scope of forcible acquisition. He said the urgency clause had been redefined, restricting it to only national security and defence, while no land could be acquired without written consent in other cases.
The minister explained that farmers could seek justice, both from authorities that would be set up in every state and the judiciary.
On lease options for farmers who don’t want to sell their land, Ramesh said the decision would rest with the states concerned.
He said the law sets three conditions for retrospective application. It would apply if no award has been given under the old law, if 50 per cent farmers have refused to accept compensation and if possession has not been taken of the land acquired.
On the question of returning unused land acquired from farmers, the minister said the chief ministers of Bengal and Maharashtra had advocated the concept of a land bank.