Penalty on States if land law not implemented, says Jairam

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jairamBHOPAL, September 17: The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2013 includes penalties for officials who fail to implement its provisions, Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh has said.

The Bill was amended to exclude irrigation projects from Social Impact Assessment and application of retrospective provisions after Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan met Mr. Ramesh. The retrospective clause says that if a majority of landowners have refused compensation, then it must be paid in line with the new law.

This may affect Madhya Pradesh, which has many projects in various stages of completion on the Narmada. The land for land clause has been relaxed for irrigation projects, where land is not available.

While activists have come out with their criticism, the State government has projected this as a victory for development. For Dalits and Adivasis, however, land in exchange for land acquired is mandatory.

“Unlike some other laws, in this law, penalties have been included. While the States are welcome to offer better compensation than the law stipulates, they have to grant the minimum benefits prescribed in the law,” Mr. Ramesh told The Hindu here on Tuesday.

This law is being touted as the sixth milestone of the United Progressive Alliance. The others are laws guaranteeing the right to information, rural employment, forest rights, education and food.

In all districts of the State with large forest cover, several claims under the forest rights act are pending. This has led to violence during the kharif or monsoon cropping season. This paper had reported the death of a Gond tribal person in Betul district last month, after being arrested during a fruit plantation drive on forest land. Mr. Ramesh said the Bill would be notified by next year after the framing of rules. “In districts where Naxalites are active, this law would weaken their influence as it would eliminate the grievances of a large number of peasants. Need to agitate for their rights would cease to exist.” While the cost of land acquisition would increase, the social cost would decrease.

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