Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Wednesday virtually rejected the Modi government’s land Bill saying her government in West Bengal was already following an “alternative and transparent” land acquisition policy, which could be a model for others.
Mamata, who was among the four non-Congress chief ministers to have not attended the meeting of the Governing Council of the NITI Aayog called to discuss the contentious legislation, said her state was following an alternative land policy as it “cannot wait till eternity for the central government to settle on a proper land policy”.
“We have framed an alternative land policy where direct purchase can be done through negotiations without any forcible acquisition. The policy allows for rehabilitation and payment of 50 per cent more compensation than the market price. And there is also incentive for those who get it registered within a specific time,” the chief minister said at the 100th administrative meeting of the Trinamool Congress government in Burdwan.
Mamata said her government had been able to complete various projects, including those of the central government, through direct land purchase after holding negotiations with the owners. She said the government had to do this because many projects were getting stalled in the absence of Centre’s land acquisition policy, which was pending.
“We have been following our own land policy because we cannot wait till eternity for the central government to settle on a proper land policy. We have taken the people into confidence while acquiring land,” the chief minister said.
She said that land was more of a state issue and states should be allowed to deal with it independently. “There are many ongoing projects of the state government which get stuck for a small piece of land. I think the land issue should be left to the state. I have always been against forceful acquisition of land. If someone wants to sell his land it is his democratic right. We have no problem regarding land. We have our own land bank and land policy, which others can follow,” Mamata said adding that they had allotted about 14,000 acre land without any problem.
Citing instances where the state had been able to give land to big projects, Mamata said the Andal greenfield airport was given land for completion as well as NTPC’s Katwa project, among others. Several other projects for bridges and irrigation had started by acquiring land following this route, she said. “We have started some of the central government projects at Bagdogra airport. We faced no problems at our Durgapur and Kharagpur industrial parks,” Mamata said.
Referring to Singur, which had witnessed violent protests by her party against land acquisition for Tata’s Nano project, which ultimately had to be shifted to Gujarat, she said, “There was a procedural mistake. But for others there had been no such issue”.
Apart from West Bengal, chief ministers of nine Congress-ruled states and those of Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha kept away from NITI Aayog’s meeting, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the deadlock over the land legislation was adversely impacting rural development.