Modifications have been made to the draft land acquisition bill by tightening the definition of public purpose and introducing a new clause for its retrospective implementation, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said Friday.
He said the draft land acquisition and rehabilitation and resettlement bill has been sent with modifications for inter-ministerial consultations, and hoped it would be introduced in the ongoing monsoon session of parliament.
"We have circulated a revised draft bill for inter-ministerial consultations on Aug 12. We are hoping that the bill will be introduced in this session," Ramesh said.
The draft bill was placed in public domain for consultations last month.
"Some changes over and above in the bill on the website have been made," Ramesh said.
Ramesh said several suggestions have been received for tightening the definition of public purpose to remove scope of its misuse.
He said "land for railways, highways, ports, power and irrigation purposes for use by government or public sector companies" has been included in the definition of public purpose.
The minister said the consent of at least 80 percent of project-affected people is needed if land is acquired in public interest by government where the benefits largely accrue to the general public or is acquired by the government or public sector companies for infrastructure or urbanisation projects.
Consent of at least 80 percent of project affected people is also needed if land is acquired in public interest for private companies for production of goods for provision of public services.
Ramesh said the bill will apply to all cases of land acquisition where before the date of commencement of the act, "the award has not been made under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, or, possession of land has not been taken regardless of whether award has been made or not".
He said special benefits under rehabilitation and resettlement available to the Scheduled Tribes have been extended to the Scheduled Castes.
A modification has also been made in rehabilitation and resettlement provisions. These provisions now become applicable if the land purchased is 100 acres in rural areas and 50 acres in urban areas. The draft bill said these would be applicable if land acquired exceeds 100 acres.
Ramesh said the sum to be paid by the land acquirer if he is not able to provide employment has been increased from Rs.2 lakh to Rs.5 lakh.
The minister said he had spoken to leaders of political parties and there was almost unanimous support for the bill.
He said extensive consultations had been held with National Alliance for People's Movements and he had got representation from CII and FICCI.
He said the clause to give retrospective effect to the bill was inspired by demands from farmers of Uttar Pradesh. The farmers in the state, who had been agitating against the land acquisition policy of Mayawati government, had met the minister earlier this month with their demands.
The minister said states such as Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal and Kerala had reservations over the provision in the draft bill which prohibits acquisition of multi-crop irrigated land.
"They feel it can be a restrictive clause. We may improve it," he said.
He said the purpose of the bill was to allow for land to be acquired in a transparent manner.