Jairam Ramesh bats for land acquisition act, allays industry fears

Prods industry to purchase land as against acquiring it


Geetanjali Minhas | September 30, 2013

Terming the new Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 humane and in national interest union minister for rural development, Jairam Ramesh on Sunday allayed industry fears that the new land acquisition act would make projects economically unviable.

Addressing the media in Mumbai on Sunday Ramesh clarified that the new act applies only to the land ‘acquired’ by central and state authorities for any ‘public purpose’. There is no bar whatsoever on ‘purchase’ of private land.

“Industry must look beyond land acquisition by Government and explore land purchase opportunities. Land acquisition should become an act of last resort” Ramesh said. He added that in 20 years from now there should only be land purchases and no land acquisition.

Describing the new act which replaces 119 year old act as ‘historic’ the rural development minister said that the 1894 Act was undemocratic as it vested enormous discretionary powers in the hands of district collectors.

"I believe that the old law was undemocratic as governments used to buy land from people at low prices and sell it to business houses at a premium rate. The collector decided the urgency, the amount of compensation and resettlement provisions if any. Hence the old act created public outrage nationwide and was the reason behind mass movements on land issues in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Odisha,” he said.

Explaining few important provisions of the new act, Ramesh said that the purpose of land acquisition has been clearly spelt out and major emphasis has been laid on rehabilitation and resettlement. The consent of gram sabha in schedule V areas – mostly tribal dominated areas and consultation with gram sabha in other areas has been made mandatory.

“If the Government failed to utilize the land acquired for public purpose within five years it will have to return the land to the owners,” he added.

“The new Act promises fair compensation for the farmers and for those who lose their lands. It stipulates that compensation will be paid at twice the rate of three year average of highest selling price in urban areas and up to four times the average highest sale price in rural areas. Additionally there is also a provision of leasing the land instead of selling it thereby opting to receive a regular income over a longer period of time,” he said.

“Land is still considered the biggest social security in India. Since they will be dispossessed of their assets, they are entitled for a fair and just compensation,” he added.

Ramesh also pointed out that the new law has been made under the concurrent list of the constitution (law derived from central law) and states could only improve upon the quantum of compensation as well as other provisions in favour of the land owners and farmers and not decrease them.

Responding to another question on SEZ’s the rural development minister said the act will be applicable to all future SEZ’s  which will be in accordance with the new act and  retrospectively apply to cases more than five years old. However he admitted that the act presently has no provision to deal with SEZs that are denotified or whose purpose has been changed.

On the issue of land records, Ramesh said his ministry has been working towards improving land records management in the country, promoting transparency in land sales. The national land record modernization programme (NLRMP) for computerization of land records, digitization of maps and resurvey has already been implemented.

“Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka and Tripura are leading in NRLMP. Maharashtra is catching up fast,” he informed.

He also added that a Bill seeking amendment to the Registration Act of 1908 has also been introduced in Parliament which when passed will put all land sales and registrations in public domain. “When transparency increases, it will become easier for the corporate to purchase land,” he observed.

Appealing all state governments to implement the new act in right spirit Ramesh said that it would be notified either on January 1, 2014 or April 1, 2014.
Food Security Act  

Speaking in the newly passed Food Security Act (FSA), Jairam Ramesh said that after Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat, Maharashtra would be the fourth largest beneficiary of FSA.

“76% people in rural Maharashtra and 45% people in urban areas would be covered under the new act. Food grain allocation for the state will go up from 36.5 lakh tonnes per annum to 45 lakh tonnes per annum.  Total food subsidy for Maharashtra will be Rs 9,300 crores against the present level of Rs 6,600 crores,” he said. 





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