With Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday calling for a humane and balanced governmental approach while acquiring land for development purposes, the likelihood of two pending Bills — one on land acquisition and the other on the rehabilitation of those whose lands are taken away — being further tweaked to make them more farmer-friendly, increased.
Inaugurating a power project in Dadri, west Uttar Pradesh, Sonia spelt out the parameters for such acquisition: fertile land should not be acquired and farmers should be paid proper compensation and provided alternative occupations.
"New industry and new infrastructure cannot be built without acquiring land. But land acquisition must be done in a manner that does not result in the loss of large tracts of productive agricultural land so indispensable to cultivate the foodgrain needed to feed our people. And if farmers are on necessity deprived of their land-based livelihood, they must be provided with adequate compensation and alternative occupations," Sonia said.
She added that some states like Haryana had enacted progressive legislation in this respect and other states should follow its example. (Haryana pays compensation between Rs 8 lakh and Rs 20 lakh per acre, depending on the area acquired, as well as annuity at Rs 30,000 per acre for the next 33 years.)
In the coming days, the development/environment issue is expected to generate further heat.
Already the BJP is trying to capitalise on seeming differences within the ruling party on the matter.
"There are two voices coming from Congress. While all the bad measures come through Manmohan Singh, populist statements come from the party president and one of the general secretary," BJP spokesman Shahnavaz Hussain said.
Rahul backs tribals
Two days after Jairam Ramesh's Environment Ministry refused to give environment clearance to the Vedanta project, at a rally in Lanjigarh on August 26, Rahul had said:
"True development takes place by respecting interests of the poor and tribals and not by stifling their voices."
Even earlier, in September 2006, against a backdrop of increasing farmer suicides and protests over land acquisition for special economic zones, Sonia had said: "Land acquisition must be done without jeopardising our agricultural prospects."