With the model code of conduct likely to come into force by the end of this week, the government is racing against time to put a law in place to implement a farmer-friendly resettlement and rehabilitation policy. Apart from higher compensation the policy will also introduce a resettlement-before-displacement rule. This implies that those displacing farmers will have to first provide them alternative sites.
On Tuesday, a group of ministers cleared official amendments to the Land Acquisition Act and decided to move Parliament for passage of the legislation introduced in December 2007.
Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad might seek passage of the bill in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday and the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
A formal approval would be sought at Thursday’s cabinet meeting.
Acquisition of thousands of acres, from special economic zones to industries, is stuck in anticipation of the law that will provide farmers a forum to air their grievances.
Till last year, the commerce ministry had approved 57,412 hectares of land (574 square km) to build 404 SEZs.
There are no authoritative figures on the number of farmers in the country affected by acquisition of farmland for industries.
Prasad hopes to deliver a generous compensation package to farmers who lose their land. He also wants the govern ment to ensure that the process of deciding the compensation package is transparent.
The legislation was stuck with the group of ministers for nearly six months.
A parliamentary panel recommended that the government acquire land required by private parties and hand it over to them.
Prasad, however, insisted that the government should not be seen to be acquiring land for private industrial groups and made land acquisition conditional to the private entity buying 70 per cent of the project land.