Land Bill clears Oppn hurdle after govt agrees to key changes

FP

After weeks of hectic negotiations, the government on Thursday claimed to have clinched a broad consensus on the crucial Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, paving the way for its consideration and passage in the second half of the budget session of Parliament beginning April 22.

"We have reached a broad consensus on the Land Acquisition Bill," announced Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath after an all-party meeting. The Bill, being seen as a key reform measure of the Congress-led government ahead of the Lok Sabha polls due next year, is expected to be brought in Parliament with around 35 major amendments.

"There was a general consensus that this Bill should be passed in this session. All parties have made it clear that they don't want any delay," said union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh.

The government has agreed to some key suggestions made by the BJP and other parties to get them on board for this proposed legislation that has been hanging fire since it was first introduced in Parliament in September 2011.

In a significant move, the government has agreed to the demand of some parties, including the BJP and Shiv Sena, to also compensate the original land owners if land that has been purchased by private entities after September 5, 2011 (when the Bill was introduced) is acquired by the government. Parties had raised concerns of "land mafias" buying and hoarding land in anticipation of hefty compensation after acquisition by the government.

The government has agreed to include a provision that would ensure that in such cases, the original land owner also gets a share of the compensation. While the exact amount has not been decided, sources said it is likely to be in the range of 40 to 50 per cent of the total compensation awarded.

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