Jairam Ramesh at Parliament on Friday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Aug. 30: The Centre today sought to allay fears that the proposed land acquisition law would discourage industrialisation and delay projects, saying it had “humane” provisions based on lessons from the Singur agitation.
“The fears are largely exaggerated and overblown. Any bill that closes the door on forcible acquisition is also in the interests of the nation,” rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said, alluding to concerns expressed by industry bodies over the land bill passed by the Lok Sabha yesterday.
The final draft, rechristened the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill, seeks to replace the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
Business chamber CII has said the cost of acquisitions is likely to increase over three times, making industrial projects unviable and raising costs across the board in the economy. It has argued that a provision in the bill for social impact assessment (SIA), to be conducted before acquisitions, will lead to delays.
But Ramesh defended the clause citing Singur. He said such assessments would give a clear picture on the impact of land acquisitions on the ground.
“When land was acquired for Singur, you only gave compensation to owners. You did not know that half of the land-owners were sitting in Calcutta and there were large number of livelihood losers in Singur.”
The bill provides for compensation to sharecroppers, Ramesh said. “In fact, it is Singur which led to the inclusion of livelihood losers in this act. For the first time, livelihood losers are recognised, their rights are recognised. So far we gave compensation only to farmers, we (will) now give compensation to livelihood losers.”
Ramesh said the bill should be judged in totality, not from a sectional point of view. He described the existing land acquisition act, a 119-year-old law, as draconian and said it had severely affected farmers and livelihood losers. “We need to recognise the historical injustices that resulted from the 1894 Act.”
The compensation will be twice the market value of the land in urban areas and between two and four times in rural areas.
Ramesh conceded land takeovers would cost more under the new law but pointed to other long-term gains. “Will the cost of acquisition go up? Yes. Will the time taken for the acquisition go up? Not necessarily. Will acquisition be more humane? Yes. Will acquisition prevent long-term agitations? Yes,” the minister said.
Any bill that protects the interest of farmers, livelihood losers, tribals and Dalits is in national interest, Ramesh said, adding industry was free to purchase land directly from farmers.