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Sonia Gandhi forces changes, makes land acquisition tougher

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Fresh changes have been made in the draft Land Acquisition Bill under which the level of consent of landowners for acquiring land for private purpose has been made stiffer following a suggestion from UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
The percentage of land owners, whose consent is a must for acquiring land for private purpose, has been raised from 67 per cent to 80 in the proposed bill.
Disclosing the changes in the measure, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who heads Group of Ministers on the bill, said consent of land owners was not not required for acquiring land for public purpose.
The proposed changes will soon be circulated among 14 members of the GoM for their views and consent, he told reporters after a brief meeting with Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on the issue.
"A detailed discussion was made in the last GoM. Some of them suggested changes and these were discussed and finalised today," he said. The key changes include consent of 80 per cent of landowners if government acquires land for private purpose. The changes come against the backdrop of recommendations of Gandhi suggesting raising the consent level of land owners for acquiring land for private purpose.
In the last meeting on October 16, GoM had approved for a provision for consent of two-third (67 per cent) of land owners for acquiring land for private purpose. Asked if raising the of quantum of consent of land owners will upset the private industry, Pawar said "if that is the case, then industry can purchase privately." On rehabilitation issue, the minister said it will be made compulsory if land is acquired under public private partnership (PPP) while the state government will decide in the case an individual purchase land for personal use. Some concessions will be given for acquiring land under PPP for public purpose. The concessions will be decided by the state governments, he said.
If land is acquired for Special Economic Zones (SEZs), the minister said the state governments will decide on the issue. Pawar said there will not be retrospective clause in the proposed bill. "It (proposed bill) will be applicable from the day when Parliament passes the bill. There are some cases where land acquisition process has started and payment has not been made, there we have asked to consult the state governments," he said. On using land acquired for one project for another, Pawar said "I have to see whether the Supreme Court judgement on this issue is applicable to this or not. We are consulting the Law Ministry on this issue."
The Supreme Court has said in a judgement that the left- over land acquired for a project cannot be resold and should be auctioned, he said.
Asked if the GoM will meet again, Pawar said "I will send the changes to all members tomorrow with a request to send their views within a week. Suppose there are some issues, then again I will have to call for the GoM meeting. I expect that there will not be such a situation and I will take it to the cabinet."
After the cabinet's approval, the proposed bill will be placed "possibly in the coming winter session of Parliament".
Source: Financial Express

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