Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Land Bill is a "political response", says 'political animal' Jairam

He is better known as a pro-active minister, who reportedly tried to defy even the Prime Minister.
But when it comes to the new Land Bill, Jairam Ramesh in his avataar as the Rural Development minister makes it crystal clear that the bill has a specific political purpose.
Ending weeks of suspence, the Land Acquisition,
Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011 was introduced in the Lok
Sabha today seeking to replace a century old law even as within hours of its introduction, the Rural Development Minister Mr Jairam Ramesh called
it a "political response to a political problem".
With the introduction of the Bill, the Congress-led UPA government
under constant attack for neglecting its 'aam admi' political
constituency over price rise and corruption issues inched closer to replacing a the land acquisition law of 1894 by a new one that would hopefully placate the Congress party's rural vote base.
Stating that the "entire credit' for bringing about the draft
legislation in record time of 55 days after threadbare consultations
should go to Mr Rahul Gandhi, Mr Ramesh said, "I am a political animal ...... and the new bill is a political response and solution to a political problem".
"I am not living in a fool's paradise and divorced from reality," he
told a press conference in reply to a question emphasising on the
specific political purpose of the bill
vis-a-vis Congress general secretary Mr Rahul Gandhi's stated agenda
eyeing the next year's assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Mr Ramesh had come to the Rural Development ministry from erstwhile position of MoS Independent charge for Environment reportedly at the instance of Rahul Gandhi, because the Gandhi scion was not satisfied with
Ramesh's predecessor, Vilasrao Deshmukh, an old-hat in Marathi brand of politics in his own right.
However, asked on how much does he think the Bill would help Congress
to storm back to power in the country's most populous state, Ramesh
merely said, "....it all depends on Congress party in UP, I mean right
from the pradesh Congress level to the district unit level".
He said Rahul Gandhi stood by the ministry all along for a
comprehensive bill and gave his invaluable inputs in various aspects
including ensuirng
the protection of the inherent rights of the tribals.
"It was Mr Gandhi who insisted to protect the interest of those whose
livelihood would be affected by the land acquisition as much as he
gave the guiding principle to ensure that the Bill has retrospective effect," Mr Ramesh said.
The minister said suggestions from various political parties including
Trinamul chief Ms Mamata Banerjee was enlisted for creating a
provision
for Land Bank for the states and from Agriculture Minister Mr Sharad
Pawar for creating "equivalent agriculturable land out of wastelands
whenever multi crop irrigated land
is acquired".
He denied that there was any "heated debate" in the cabinet on 5
September on the Bill especially by three former Maharashtra chief
ministers
Mr Pawar, Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh and Mr Sushil Shinde.
"There was broad agreement on the bill and even today while I
introduced it in Lok Sabha; leaders from various political leaders
told me they welcome
its introduction though they may have certain differences". .
Mr Ramesh explained that the Bill has been criticised essentially from
two points. "One by the likes of Medha Patkar who say we have not gone
enough,
and the other who say it is against economic development and industrialisation".
But the government has only tried to strike a right balance, he said
adding this point was underlined by none other than the Prime Minister
Dr Manmohan Singh and
the Finance Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee. He clarified that the
compensation as proposed at 4 times the market price for rural areas
as against the 6 times
proposed by Sonia Gandhi-led NAC was also "only to strike the balance".
"This is not one-sided draft. It's pro-land owner, pro-livelihood
dependents and pro-ecoonomic development," he said.
The minister explained that the Bill does not put any ban on the
'private purchase' of the land but there is a rider that for any such
purchase for landscape of over 100
acres in rural areas and 50 acres in urban areas, the rehabilitation
and resettlement package as enshrined in the new bill will be binding.
He also explained that as the land acquisition is on concurrent list
and the 'land' being a state subject, the states will be at liberty to
make their own
land acquisition law. "This is the minimum rehabilitation and
resettlement package, any state can give an higher compensation, there
is no upper limit bar," he said.
The Bill will go to the standing committee on rural development headed
by BJP member Ms Sumitra Mahajan, he said and is expected to passed in
December during the winter
session of parliament.
The compulsory land acquisition for the public pupose has assumed a
contentious spectre as the country is eyeying higher scale of
industrialization where in the land-owners and those dependent for
livelihood felt ignored in the entire neo-development paradigm.
The legislation, spearheaded by ruling Congress chief Ms Sonia Gandhi
and her son Rahul, is seen as crucial for the Congress chances of
repeating a Nandigram like political volte face in UP.
The new legislation is being awaited eagerly even by the industries
and real estate players as several land acquisition across the country
for mega projects is marred in disputes
amid fear of the courts stripping the industries of their holdings.
To a question, the minister said, the Bill if becomes a new law will
be applicable to Bhatta Parasul acquisition in UP also as the award
for compensation is not yet notified there.
Mr Ramesh also listed out as many as 18 differences between the
existing Land Acquisition policy of the BSP-led UP government and the
new central bill.

(ends)

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