The debate in the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance government over land acquisition acquired a new edge with party president Sonia Gandhi favouring a balanced approach in securing land for industrial purposes without losing large fertile tracts.
"New industries and infrastructure cannot be built without acquiring land. This is obvious and there is no argument about it. But land acquisition must be done in a manner that it does not result in the loss of large tracts of fertile and productive agriculture land," she said at a public function in New Delhi.
Gandhi was speaking after dedicating to the nation Stage II of the National Thermal Power Project in Dadri in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. The Stage II project of the power plant will supply power to the Commonwealth Games.
Her comments acquire significance in the context of the current debate over land acquisition, an issue on which Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had recently met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and got an assurance that the government would bring a new legislation on acquiring farmers' land.
"Farmers must be provided adequate compensation and an alternative occupation" where their lands are acquired, Sonia Gandhi said. She said that some states like Haryana have progressive legislations in this regard and other states should emulate it.
Touching on the issue of environment, Gandhi said while "we definitely need to generate more power"" for our farmers' needs, factories and industries, "at the same time we must protect the environment to ensure sustainable development."
"In whatever we do, we must not forget that our lush forests, mountains are necessary, we have a responsibility to protect them," she said, adding that there is a need to 'sustain and nurture' the river and clean air.
"It is our obligation to ensure that affordable electricity is provided to all sections of our population. It is, therefore, evident that if we have to sustain our pace of economic growth and lift all our people out of poverty, the power sector has to lead the way," Gandhi said.
She said the future energy requirements of the country necessitate paying much more attention to clean and renewable sources of energy. Since the Parliament has now passed the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill, the country is in a position to invest in nuclear power, she said.
"I understand NTPC is gearing up to enter the field of nuclear energy, it has also taken steps to expand the utilisation of green and solar energy on a large scale," Gandhi said. She also referred to Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification project's plans to provide electricity to all villages in the country and said the supply of electricity has to be reliable and regular.