Land bill pitch before politicians

India Inc has thrown its weight behind the land bill at a time the Narendra Modi-government is making efforts to get it passed in Parliament, which convenes again for the budget session tomorrow. Industry is engaged in back-channel discussions with various political parties and states to help the bill sail through.

By R. Suryamurthy & Jayanta Roy Chowdhury
  • Published 20.04.15
  •  

New Delhi, April 19: India Inc has thrown its weight behind the land bill at a time the Narendra Modi-government is making efforts to get it passed in Parliament, which convenes again for the budget session tomorrow. Industry is engaged in back-channel discussions with various political parties and states to help the bill sail through.

"The CII has been talking to different political parties and states, sensitising them of the issues and trying to convince them to help in getting the bill passed in Parliament," Sumit Mazumder, the newly elected president of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), told The Telegraph.

He said opposing the land bill was "not good for the country". "How will the country progress without industralisation?"

Mazumder said the bill brought by the Modi government was a well thought-out legislation, which takes care of stakeholder interests and restrains the state from acquiring land for purposes other than critical needs such as defence.

"The government would acquire the land only for select sectors, including defence and strategic importance. Private enterprises will have to buy the land on their own," he said.

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 seeks to amend the act of 2013 (LARR Act, 2013).

The bill creates five special categories of land use - defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects, including public-private-partnership (PPP) projects, where the central government owns the land.

The bill exempts the five categories from provisions of the LARR Act, 2013, which requires the consent of 80 per cent of landowners for private projects and 70 per cent of landowners for PPP projects.

The bill exempts projects in these five categories from social impact assessment on land losers. It also removes the restrictions on buying irrigated multi-cropped land imposed by LARR Act, 2013.

The bill brings provisions for compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement under other related acts such as the national highways act and the railways act in consonance with the LARR act.

It changes the acquisition of land for private companies mentioned in LARR Act, 2013 to acquisition for "private entities". A private entity can include companies, corporations and non-profit organisations.

Mazumder is hopeful of the bill sailing through in Parliament.

The Modi government will find it difficult to get the bill passed because it is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha.

At present, the parties opposed to the land acquisition bill together have 149 MPs in the Rajya Sabha out of the total strength of 245.

Make in India

The passage of the land bill forms the crux of the several reform legislations undertaken by the government.

"In the 10 months, the Modi government has taken several bold reform measures such as FDI in insurance and defence, which have created a positive atmosphere and the sentiments of the industry has changed," Mazumder said.

He said the government's Make in India campaign would result in job creation and skill development in the country.

The CII president said the showcasing of Make in India in Germany was a big success as it captured the attention of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

"The SMEs are the major backbone of India and German industry. The SME sector there showed keen interest in the Make in India campaign of the country. The country has the resources and manpower, which the industry can utilise is the big message that was sent out and received well," Mazumder said.

The coal auction conducted by the Centre in a fair and transparent manner has instilled confidence that this government means business, he said.

He expressed hope that the Modi government would maintain the pace of economic reforms and take further steps to improve the ease of doing business.

Tax regime

On the Rs 40,000-crore tax demand notices to foreign institutional investors on capital gains made in previous years, Mazumder said, "They have to pay the tax in accordance with the provisions of law. Ihe issue has been overblown."

Nearly 100 foreign funds have been asked to pay an estimated Rs 60,000 crore for "untaxed gains" made by them in India over the past years. The income tax department has imposed a 20 per cent minimum alternate tax (MAT) on capital gains made by the FIIs.

The amendment, which has been proposed in the budget, will take effect on or after April 1, 2015. The demand for the previous period is confirmed by the Authorities for Advance Ruling.

On the new tax return form issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes, he said, "Reporting the money spent during travel abroad would be cumbersome, as everything can been seen from the bank account and credit card statement. However, since all of us keep a record of what we spend, it can be reported."

The new form makes it mandatory for taxpayers to report details of foreign trips along with expenses incurred from own sources on such travel. Both business travellers visiting overseas countries and individuals on overseas holidays will have to maintain and report details of expenses in a prescribed format.

The CBDT will seek the travellers' passport number and details as well as the countries visited and money spent on such travel. Besides, it has been made compulsory for the assessed to file details of assets held abroad as well as of multiple bank accounts held in India and Aadhar number, if any, quoted for the tax returns.