The Land Acquisition Bill, which raised the hackles of various stakeholders, has gone through a few crucial changes days before the Winter Session of Parliament, during which it would be presented to the Cabinet.

According to sources in the Rural Development Ministry, the hotly debated consent clause is back at 80 per cent.

This section of the Bill, which is now called The Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill, led to differences among some ministers during the discussion of a Group of Ministers, headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.

However, now the original clause, which required 80 per cent consent from land owners, is likely to be reinstated in the draft Bill to be presented to the Cabinet.

This clause had been watered down to 66 per cent following strong opposition from the industry, which feared that this would hurt investor sentiments and create impediments.

The Bill, which was referred to as the “the political agenda of the Congress” earlier, has seen strong opposition from farmers, who felt the provisions had been watered down and are not to their benefit. Last month, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi had also recommended that the consent clause required for private purchases be raised to 80 per cent.

Further, Ministry sources said there was some clarity on how unused land will be treated, which was another contentious issue.

The officials said that it has been decided that where land acquired by the Government is left unutilised, it may go back to the original owners.

However, this decision would be left to the discretion of the State Governments.

In addition, land losers may also benefit if the Government decides to sell the acquired land at any time. Ministry sources said that 40 per cent of the profit from this transaction would go to the original land owner.

(This article was published on November 19, 2012)
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