Land Acquisition Bill in Lok Sabha tomorrow

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JairamNew Delhi, August 28; Following the passage of the Food Security Bill, the UPA government on Thursday will introduce another landmark legislation — the Land Acquisition Bill — that aims to provide “just and fair” compensation to families whose land has been acquired for industrial purposes.

“The Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Bill is scheduled to be taken up in the Lok Sabha Thursday,” confirmed a government official.

Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Rural Development will move the Bill, which aims at making affected persons partners in development, leading to an improvement in their post- acquisition social and economic status.

While this key reform bill has faced reservations from the opposition in the past, the government has been able to arrive at a political consensus on the legislation. The Land Bill proposes payment of compensation nearly four times the market value in rural areas and twice in the case of urban areas. So far, the government has moved 165 amendments, the opposition has moved as many as 116 amendments to the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, which seeks to replace the century-old Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

Mr. Ramesh said the Bill, renamed as “The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012” conveys government’s determination to address “widespread and historical injustices”. This has been ensured by establishing strong legal prerequisites that need to be discharged first while acquiring land.

Another key feature is that the consent of 80 per cent of land owners concerned is needed for acquiring land for private projects and of 70 per cent landowners for public-private projects. The bill also defines ‘public purpose’ to include: mining, infrastructure, defence, manufacturing zones, roads, railways, highways, and ports built by government and public sector enterprises, land for project-affected people, planned development and improvement of village or urban sites and residential purposes for the poor and landless and government-administered schemes or institutions, among others.

Additionally, the bill contains the much criticised ‘Urgency Clause’ which never truly defines what constitutes an urgent need and leaves it to the discretion of the acquiring authority. As a result almost all acquisitions under the Act invoke the urgency clause. This results in the complete dispossession of the land without even the token satisfaction of the processes listed under the Act.

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