In a toughening of stand, Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has refused to make any major compromise on the UPA's ambitious Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill.
A week after several ministers shot down the bill in a cabinet meeting last Tuesday, Ramesh said, "Just like the Indian Constitution, the land bill also has a basic structure that can't be changed."
"The land bill is the political agenda of the Congress, and it will be fulfilled," he added.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh referred the bill to a Group of Ministers (GoM) after ministers such as Anand Sharma (commerce and industry), Kamal Nath (urban development), CP Joshi (road transport) and Ajit Singh (civil aviation), voiced apprehensions over various aspects of the bill. However, even before the GoM could meet, a confident Ramesh said the bill "will be definitely brought before Parliament in the winter session".
Ramesh also ruled out any dilution in the provisions of the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) of the bill. "I have already made a lot of concessions. Industrial lobbies such as CII and FICCI, and activists such as Medha Patkar… are unhappy with the bill. But SIA is in the heart of the bill, and under no circumstances can it be abandoned," Ramesh said.
SEZs are also likely to come under the bill.
While a section of the ruling dispensation feels that the bill may not exactly match the current requirements of the economy, Ramesh claims that he enjoys the confidence of the Prime Minister as far as the bill is concerned.
"The Prime Minister is in favour of the bill. His only concern is that it should not encourage bureaucratic red tapism, delay in acquisition and promote corruption. I am taking care of all these issues," Ramesh said.
According to the Union minister, the bill will allow states to decide their role in land acquisition and encourage private purchase of land.