Govt to move land acquisition bill during winter session

Economic Times, October 19, 2012

The government will soon finalise the cut-off date for implementing the new land acquisition legislation, which will be introduced in the winter session of Parliament, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said on Thursday.

The minister said although a group of ministers, headed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, has modified the proposed bill and it no longer requires the consent of livelihood losers, they would be entitled to rehabilitation and compensation.

“I met Sharad Pawar today (Thursday) and we want the bill to be before Parliament during the winter session, which begins on November 21. That is our cut-off date. It also needs to be cleared by the Cabinet before that,” Ramesh said in response to a query on when the bill’s cut-off date would be decided.

Pawar had earlier said that all other contentious issues such as the percentage of project-affected families whose consent is needed for land acquisition, and linkage between possession of land and implementation of relief package, have been resolved by the GoM.

Ramesh confirmed that the GoM has brought down the percentage of project-affected families to 66% from 80%.

He said while livelihood losers, or people who worked on the acquired land, would not have a say in the decision to sell, they would be entitled to the relief package specified in the new law.

The minister also said that possession of the acquired land would be allowed once the compensation was paid and the rehabilitation process had begun, adding that rehabilitation need not be completed for possession of land.

The minister, however, said that the process should preferably be completed within two years of land acquisition. The draft bill has also done away with the retrospective clause to ensure that pending land acquisition cases are not brought under the ambit of the new law, deciding instead to fix a cut-off date for the new law to take effect.

The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill was introduced in Parliament in September last year to replace the 117-year-old Land Acquisition Act. It was referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by Sumitra Mahajan, which submitted its recommendations in May this year. The revised bill seeks to pay land owners in urban areas twice the market rate and the ones in rural areas four times the market rate with areas falling in between getting compensation based on a rolling scale linked to the distance of the location from rural and urban centres.

Flexi fund for rural development

The government will set up a rural development flexi fund of Rs 40,000 crore for states as part of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17) to allow states the freedom in funding the project.

The Centre will pay 70% of the amount while states will have to come up with the rest. The amount will be disbursed over four years starting from 2013-14. The Planning Commission could extend a similar dispensation to other ministries as well. The scheme would be put up for Cabinet approval soon.

Wider coverage for pension scheme

Pension scheme for the old, widows and disabled run by the rural development ministry, which is currently available only to below poverty line population, may soon be extended to all except those who are excluded through pre-determined criteria.

“I have spoken to the PM and the FM and it will be taken to the Union Cabinet for approval,” the minister said. The pension schemes are Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme and Indira Gandhi National Disabled Pension Scheme.

This news can also be viewed at: