GoM clears land acquisition Bill,with changes

Sources said the minutes of the discussions will be circulated to all members of the GoM.

Written by Ravish Tiwari | New Delhi | Published: October 16, 2012 9:36 pm

The group of ministers (GoM) headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar today cleared the much-delayed Land Acquisition,Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Bill,after approving some relaxations which addressed the concerns expressed by different ministries.

“The Bill is finalised. We have finalised the draft. Each and every issue on which there were different views,we succeeded in bringing some understanding,” Pawar told reporters after the meeting.

Sources said the minutes of the discussions will be circulated to all members of the GoM for their final comments,before the draft Bill is finally approved by Pawar. The draft will be sent to the Cabinet,paving the way for the Bill’s passage in the winter session of Parliament.

According to these sources,the GoM has agreed to Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh’s proposal to seek consent of “two-third of land owners”,instead of the existing 80 per cent of project-affected families,for acquiring land for public-private-partnership or private projects. However,the GoM was learnt to have insisted on the mandatory approval of gram sabhas for land acquisition in tribal areas.

In another major concession,the GoM has agreed to allow possession of acquired land even before the completion of rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected families,but only after having provided monetary compensation. However,in case of irrigation projects,the rehabilitation and resettlement provisions must be fulfilled at least six months before the submergence takes place.

The draft Bill has done away with the retrospective clause. Instead,Finance Minister P Chidambaram reportedly suggested a suitable mechanism like a cut-off date to ensure that the spillover from old land acquisitions do not continue when the new law comes into force.

The GoM was also reported to have agreed to flexibility in the validity period for the social impact assessment (SIA),based on the assessment of the state chief secretary’s committee which has to be constituted to review SIAs for acquisitions above 200 crore.

The draft Bill has retained the provisions that grant flexibility to states to decide whether to assist,and the extent of assistance,in land acquisition for PPP or private projects. It has also agreed not to fix a mandatory ceiling for land acquisition of multi-crop land,leaving the decision to the state governments. The state governments will also have to fix a threshold of land acquisitions,beyond which they can impose rehabilitation and resettlement requirements even on private land purchases.

On the 13 central Acts that have been exempted from the provisions of this Bill,the GoM has agreed to retain the clause that makes its mandatory for these Acts to be amended within two years to fit the provisions of LARR Bill.

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