Consent clause stays at 80% of landowners

The controversial Land Acquisition Bill was cleared by the Cabinet on Thursday.

Highly-placed sources at the Rural Development Ministry said the Bill is likely to be introduced in Parliament early next week.

According to sources, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s recommendation for the consent clause to be kept at 80 per cent, as originally envisaged, has prevailed over the suggestion made by a Group of Ministers (GoM) to water it down to 67 per cent of land owners agreeing to an acquisition.

Now, consent would be required from 80 per cent of displaced people for acquisition of land for private projects, while public-private-partnership (PPP) projects would require consent from 70 per cent of the displaced people.

On Wednesday, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh had said, “It won’t be more than 80 per cent and it won’t be less than 67 per cent.”

The consent clause has been a bone of contention, with industry and farmers holding diametrically opposite views in the matter. The industry fears that very high consent requirement would make acquisition almost impossible.

Speaking to Business Line earlier this week, Adi Godrej, Chairman of Godrej Industries and President of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), said he was confident the Government will address the industry’s concerns.

“We should have a good land acquisition Bill. It should balance the needs of the farmers. But it should be fair to both sides,” he said, adding that it is quite possible to achieve this and many of the industry’s suggestions have been incorporated.

return of unutilised land

The new draft Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, which was presented to the Cabinet, also has provision for return of unutilised land.

“When any land or part thereof, acquired under this Act remains unutilised for a period of 10 years from the date of taking over the possession, the same shall return to the Land Bank of the appropriate Government by reversion,” the Clause 95 of the Bill states.

However, the new Bill will not come into effect on a retrospective basis and where land acquisition has been made under the old Land Acquisition Act, 1894, there will be no change.

Nevertheless, where the award has been made but acquisition has not been completed, compensation will now be paid according to the provisions of the new Bill.

Also, where acquisition of land has not taken place for five years since the award was made under the old Act, the process for acquisition will be deemed to have lapsed and the process for acquisition will need to be initiated afresh under the new Bill.

aesha.datta@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 13, 2012)
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