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Land bill: UPA govt puts onus on states

delhi Updated: Jan 07, 2013 01:42 IST
Prasad Nichenametla

The land acquisition bill, which the UPA government put forth as a remedy to curb forceful acquisitions and thereby agitations throughout the country, has proved too volatile to be formulated centrally.

In its latest avatar, the land acquisition bill has allowed the state governments to decide important factors -- mainly compensation given to the farmers.

This way the states will have to deal with repercussions, if any, at the ground level.

The shift is in wake of concerns from industry, farmers, state governments and several central ministries — each wanting its interests protected.

The bill introduced in September 2011 says that compensation to land losers should be four times the market value, including the solatium in rural areas.

The amount -- based on the distance of the acquired area from the nearest towns -- would be decided by the states now.

In another shift, the states would prescribe the limit on purchase of land by private parties, breach of this rule would kick in rehabilitation benefits that the purchaser should extend to those losing their land.

The 2011 bill says that private companies that buy more than 100 acres of land in rural areas and 50 acres in urban areas should comply with resettlement and rehabilitation norms.

The ministry of rural development plans to introduce the related amendments to the bill — renamed The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation And Resettlement Bill 2012 — in the budget session.

Also, the states would now set the threshold area on farmland that could be acquired for industry in a district. They would also decide the fate of any unutilised acquired land.

As per the Constitution, land is a state subject but its acquisition falls under the concurrent list.

"The changes are based on standing committee suggestions that states understand their region and conditions better," an official said.

A new land acquisition bill to replace the 1894 Act has been a contentious issue. “Some of the acquisition provisions are best left to the states," Sharad Pawar, chairman of the GoM set up by the PM to resolve differences within the government on the bill, had said earlier.