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Land Acquisition Bill: Group of ministers still a divided house

By Aditi Phadnis
November 04, 2012 10:51 IST
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LandRural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar both claim the controversial Land Acquisition Bill has been all but wrapped up and will come up before the Cabinet for final clearance ahead of the winter session of Parliament.

The Bill was with a Group of Ministers headed by Pawar. But not all ministers agree. "There are several issues that still need to be settled," insists a Cabinet minister.

Both Defence Minister A K Antony and Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo believe some aspects of the Bill need further revision.

For instance, the concurrence of land losers, not just land owners, needs to be taken before their sole source of livelihood is taken away from them.

Though a purported agreement has been reached that consent of 80 per cent of the population has to be taken to acquire land for a private purpose and 67 per cent before it is acquired for a public purpose, ministers contest this.

And, the rights of tribal occupants of land need special weight in the Bill, say ministers.

In several parts of the country, land is tilled by people other than owners. In Madhya Pradesh, for instance, those who till the land do not always have it in their name.

"How can the claims of these people be overlooked?" asks a minister.

Therefore,

the Bill is likely to be changed to say the consent of land losers, and not land owners, will have to be sought before it is acquired.

This protection is especially relevant in areas subject to coal mining, for instance. The Bill exempts land under 16 Acts listed in Schedule IV of the Constitution from all acquisition.

This includes land where ancient heritage sites are located, or defence land. Several ministers believe this list should be pruned, while others feel it should be expanded.

For instance, it is tribal people who are always forced out of their land and habitat when it is acquired for coal or uranium or bauxite mining.

Similarly, another minister says there is no consensus on the percentage of people whose consent should be mandatory before acquisition.

While Pawar and Ramesh say 80 per cent of the people should agree to acquisition as a mandatory condition, Antony believes this figure should be 90 per cent while Deo is agreeable to 80 per cent.

Parliament's standing committee, which has cleared the Bill, says 80 per cent of the land losers must consent to giving up their land.

The National Advisory Council headed by Sonia Gandhi says this should be 100 per cent.

The group believes this should apply to all land, and no distinction should be made between acquisition for public or private purposes.

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Aditi Phadnis in New Delhi
Source: source
 

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