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Aug 01, 2011, 09.49 PM | Source: CNBC-TV18

Jairam Ramesh's draft Land Acquisition Bill detailed

In a first of his actions as the Rural Development minister, Jairam Ramesh is putting the draft land acquisition bill out in the public domain for comments. Siddharth Zarabi of CNBC-TV18 details the contents of the draft bill.

Siddharth Zarabi

Economic Editor, CNBC-TV18

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Jairam Ramesh, the ‘green pioneer’ who had proved his worth as environment minister, is out to add his first feather to the new cap he adorns now. In a first of his actions as the Rural Development minister, he is putting the draft land acquisition bill out in the public domain for comments. Siddharth Zarabi of CNBC-TV18 details the contents of the draft bill on land acquisition. He says that this new bill essentially looks to enforce a primacy law that will deal not only with land acquisition, but also relief, rehabilitation and resettlement issues in a comprehensive manner.

Below is the edited transcript. Also watch the accompanying video for his verbatim comments.

Q: How different or similar is this draft bill with what the National Advisory Council had recommended?

A: There are a lot of points that the National Advisory Council had recommended that have found place in this draft bill. This large document has a foreword by minister Jairam Ramesh and one of the key points that I want to put out before we go into the specifics is that this draft bill essentially is proposing a new institutional mechanism to ensure both land acquisition and relief, rehabilitation and resettlement are done in a comprehensive integrated manner.

There are basically 18 different laws for land acquisition like for highways, SEZ etc. This draft bill for modern India will enjoy primacy over most such legislations.

With regard to buying land, the key points seem to have been inspired by the forward-looking compensation formulae adopted in states such as Uttar Pradesh. For instance, land owners will get Rs 3000 for 12 months and Rs 2000 per month as annuity for 20 years. The award amount in rural areas will not be less than 6 times the market value. The average price will be 50% of sale deeds registered in that area for the preceding three years, while the minimum land value will be defined as per the Indian Stamps Act of 1889. So essentially, the Stamp Act which has old provisions is going to undergo a makeover.

Remember that the sale deed amount, sometimes, does not capture the entire transaction amount for a piece of land because there is a huge and substantial cash component that is involved in these deals. But clearly, by specifying this, the bar is being raised as far as prices are concerned.

What is to be noted is that it’s not just land owners who are being looked at through this bill. People who till the land, people who have sharecropping rights, they are also covered under this bill.

There are other substantial provisions too. One of them is that under no circumstance can multi-cropping land be acquired. Also, the manner in which private companies can go ahead and acquire land, that is being defined, and the government has restrained its rights to acquire land for the rarest of rare cases, apart from national security and defense or emergencies or natural calamities.

To summarize the first look of what has been put out in as the new land law for this country by Mr. Jairam Ramesh, the land acquisition and rehabilitation and resettlement bill, which will be out for public debate till the 31st August tires to put in a new framework in place. But remember that land is not just a central subject. There are state laws that also prevail. So we will perhaps need to go through the fine print to come at a better understanding of how successfully will this bill be implemented.  How much of it is practical? How much is driven by just considerations like the ones that perhaps have been imposed by the National Advisory Council? It is a matter of wait and watch.

Q: The government had promised to actually table this bill in the upcoming monsoon session of parliament, is that still possible?

A: Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal today promised that 32 new bills will be tabled in the monsoon session which begins on the first of August. The crucial part is that this item is the very last, the 32nd item on the list of bills that are to be introduced in parliament.

Minister Jairam Ramesh has given one month for public discussions, which means 31st of August, and September 8th is the end of the parliament session. 

Sometimes, the session ends even before the due date that has been announced. So I think its going to be a bit of a stretch because if you get comments till the 31st of August, then you need time to draft it too. At the drafting stage, if all comments have to be incorporated, various sorts of legal opinions will have to be sought. For the actual bill to be placed in parliament, it needs substantial vetting by the law ministry. That cannot happen overnight. Once the law ministry vets it, then it has to go to cabinet for approval. It could be referred to a GoM, then only can it go to parliament.

So at this stage, while the government today announced that it is committed to trying to introduce it in parliament as the very last item of business, it sure is going to be a bit of a stretch. Personally, if you ask me, I think it is going to be hugely difficult even for a capable man that Jairam Ramesh is.


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