NEW DELHI: The Land Acquisition Bill, which was being pushed by Ms Sonia Gandhi-led NAC, is set for further delay with the controversial matter being referred to a Group of Ministers (GoM) because of opposition by a number of Cabinet ministers.
The proposed legislation, which provides for adequate compensation to farmers for acquisition of their land, was taken up at the meeting of Union Cabinet on Tuesday for the second successive time in a week, sources said.
It was decided that the bill should be referred to a GoM as a number of ministers including Urban Development Minister, Mr Kamal Nath, Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Ajit Singh, Corporate Affairs Minister, Mr Veerappa Moily and Transport Minister, Mr C P Joshi have reservations over its provisions, sources said.
Commerce Minister, Mr Anand Sharma, who was not present at the meeting, has sent a note to Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh and Cabinet Secretary, Mr Ajit Seth suggesting that it should be put on hold till concerns are addressed, they said.
UPA constituent Trinamool Congress is also reportedly opposed the bill’s provisions but its representative Railway Minister, Mr Mukul Roy was not present in Tuesday’s meeting.
"Lot of ministries have given their suggestions. They were not adequately addressed and hence the matter has been referred to GoM," a source said.
Rechristened as ‘The Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition’, the bill has been hanging fire for long even though the National Advisory Council headed by Ms Gandhi has been pushing for the law and even has framed its broad contours.
A Minister said some Cabinet colleagues wanted more time to study the proposed legislation, which is being brought against the backdrop of some violent agitations by farmers in various parts of the country over a year ago.
Congress general secretary, Mr Rahul Gandhi had also associated with the cause of farmers during that period.
The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011 was introduced in Parliament in September last year and was referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee, which submitted its recommendation in May.
The bill provides for mandatory consent of 80 per cent of land owners their land is acquired, improving upon the recommendations of NAC which had suggested that consent of 70 per cent of land owners would be needed.
Raising objections, Mr Kamal Nath said the acquirer should be allowed to take possession of the land regardless of whether or not resettlement of dispossessed has taken place, especially for time-bound infrastructure projects.
Rural Development Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh, who is piloting the bill, rejected this argument.
He also rejected the Urban Development Ministry’s argument that having a mandatory Social Impact Assessment regardless of size shall render acquisition "very complicated, cumbersome and time consuming".
Mr Kamal Nath’s demand for expanding urgency clause to railways, highways, mass rapid transport system and other similarly placed projects was also shot down by Mr Ramesh.
The government had said in Parliament that provisions have been made in the revised Land Acquisition Bill incorporating recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee to protect the rights of farmers on land and to check the number of families displaced by land acquisition.