Land Bill may go to House panel

The Financial Express, May 11, 2015

The government may refer the land Bill to a joint parliamentary panel comprising 30 members.

Earlier in the day, the government had introduced the new version of the Bill in the Lok Sabha amid protests from Opposition parties who termed the proposed legislation as ?anti-farmer?.

The ?Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Second Bill, 2015′ was tabled by rural development minister Birender Singh after Speaker Sumitra Mahajan rejected the contentions of the Opposition parties that a similar bill is pending in the Rajya Sabha.

In her ruling, Mahajan said ?there is no bill identical to the one being proposed that is pending? and put the introduction of the Bill for voting of the House.

However, the legislation is expected to be referred to a joint panel of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as the ruling NDA does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha. Realising that NDA does not enjoy a majority, the earlier reworked land Bill was not introduced in the Rajya Sabha.

Meanwhile, amid noisy scene, parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the government was not going to pass the Bill today but was only introducing it.?This is a pro-farmer legislation,? he said.

If the Opposition goes on making political comments and criticising, the government cannot sit watching, he said.

?What is bulldozing? we (the government) want to take the majority view. We have some suggestions (on the Bill),? he said.

On March 10, the Lok Sabha had passed a land Bill where the NDA government had managed to retain crucial exemptions from the onerous Social Impact Assessment (SIA) and consent requirements for a wide spectrum of infrastructure projects and urbanisation ventures. These included defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects, including those under PPP mode where the government owns the land.

This implied that land acquisition for PPP projects in sectors like highways, ports, etc, won?t be impeded by the requirement of obtaining consent of 70% of landowners. Neither will there be need for SIA of the affected families.

Such consent and SIA were mandatory under UPA?s Act, which was amended by the ordinance. The NDA had also refused to put riders on acquisition of irrigated multi-crop land.

The government clarified that land acquisition under the law for industrial corridors will be only for those set up by the government and its undertakings. Given that purely private-sector industrial projects are a rarity, this change doesn?t signify much. It also removed ?social infrastructure? from projects exempted from SIA and consent requirements but again, since rural infrastructure remains in the exempted category, the impact would be minimal.

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