Days after a ministerial panel finalised the draft of the land acquisition bill, the government on Thursday said some land size thresholds on private purchases have now been left to the discretion of states.
"What we are stipulating in this law is that there will be a Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) package for private purchase of land wherever private purchase of land for private parties is taking place. But the threshold beyond which it will apply is left to the state government," rural development minister Jairam Ramesh told reporters about the draft bill finalised by the group of ministers chaired by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.
It is a major shift from the earlier proposal in the bill which had said that the R&R on private purchases was to apply to all acquisitions above 100 acres in rural and 50 acres in urban areas.
"West Bengal may say that any land beyond one acre will have R&R, Punjab may say any land more than thousand acres... that is entirely up to the state governments," he said.
The draft of the long-delayed bill was finalised at the third meeting of the ministerial panel on October 16.
The minister said that according to the final draft, approval of gram sabha and other such institutions like panchayat will be required for acquiring land in Scheduled Areas.
Ramesh, who discussed the bill with Pawar on Thursday, said its final draft will now be placed before the Union cabinet and is expected to be introduced in the winter session of Parliament.
Talking about the states' role specified in the bill, he said, "If the state does not want to acquire land, it is free not to acquire land. This bill does not force any state to acquire land.
"When you acquire land, you acquire it according to this law," he said.
The government had constituted the GoM about a month ago after some ministers voiced strong reservations against certain provisions of the bill at a Cabinet meeting.
The bill was introduced in Parliament in September last year and was referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee which submitted its recommendations in May.
It has been hanging fire since long even though the National Advisory Council headed by Sonia Gandhi has been pushing for the law and framed its broad contours.