Land acquisition bill tabled in Lok Sabha amid ruckus

The crucial land acquisition bill, aimed at providing ''just and fair'' compensation to those whose land is taken for industrial use, was today tabled in the Lok Sabha amidst the usual ruckus, with the opposition parties demanding a statement from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the depreciation of the rupee against the dollar.

As the house resumed following an hour-long adjournment, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh introduced the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012, as it has now been dubbed, to be taken up for consideration.

The house was then adjourned till 12:30 pm.

A key legislation, the bill calls for taking the consent of 80 per cent of land owners for acquiring land for private projects and of 70 per cent landowners for public-private projects.

The bill also proposes payment of compensation that is up to four times the market value in rural areas and two times the market value in urban areas. It also aims at making affected persons partners in development, leading to an improvement in their post- acquisition social and economic status.

The minister said the proposed legislation shows government's determination to address "widespread and historical injustices".

The Bill will replace the over 100-year-old Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which suffers from various shortcomings, including silence on the issue of resettlement and rehabilitation of those displaced by the acquisition of land.

Besides, it has the much criticised 'Urgency Clause' which never truly defines what constitutes an urgent need and leaves it to the discretion of the acquiring authority.

Apart from this, it provided low rates of compensation.

The bill is being brought for consideration and passage after two all-party meetings, which made the government accept five key amendments suggested by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj and the Left parties.

The union cabinet had approved the amendments, including one suggested by Swaraj that instead of acquisition, land could be leased to developers so that its ownership remains with farmers and provides them a regular annual income.

Swaraj had also suggested a provision for payment of 50 per cent compensation to original owners whose land was purchased after introduction of the Bill in Lok Sabha in September 2011.

According to rural development ministry officials, this will be the very first law that links land acquisition with accompanying obligations for resettlement and rehabilitation.

"Over five chapters and two entire schedules have been dedicated to outlining elaborate processes (and entitlements) for resettlement and rehabilitation," an official said.