Bail industry out

By Ravleen Kaur
Published: Saturday 31 January 2009

CII wants government to reconsider land acquisition bill

THE Confederation of Indian Industry (cii) has opposed the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill 2007 likely to be tabled in the next session of Parliament. The cii in a press release said it wants the government to reconsider the bill that mandates industries to acquire land on their own from farmers. According to the bill, the government will acquire only 30 per cent land and that too after the private sector acquires 70 per cent of the site allotted for industrial projects.

This will make it difficult for industry to set up projects, cii said. Assembling land from numerous owners is not a task which the corporate sector can undertake effectively. The government should retain its role of acquiring land for industrial development, as industrialization is key to job creation, cii said.

It further said that the clause 'public purpose' should empower the state to acquire land not only for infrastructure or defence purposes but also for developing land for economic activity.

cii criticized another provision in the bill that requires the acquirer to share the capital gains with the original owners or their heirs whenever the acquired land is sold. It is an impossibly onerous task for the private sector, the cii said. It suggested setting up state land bank corporations, that would acquire non-cultivable land, develop them and pass them on to the private sector.

The Ministry of Rural Development refused to comment on cii's press statement saying that a group of ministers is vetting the bill. "We will table the bill only after the ministers submit their report," said Rita Sinha, secretary (Department of Land Resources), Ministry of Rural Development.

In October 2008, a Parliamentary Standing committee had criticized certain clauses in the bill. In its report, the committee said the clause relating to states acquiring 30 per cent of a project land is vague and can be misused. "The previous definition (which broadly says that the government will acquire land for projects that benefit the public) was much better and should be retained," the report said.

Land rights activists, however, hail the bill and say it offers a good chance to farmers for negotiating the price of their land with the industry.

"Industry's reaction was bound to come as it cannot forcibly acquire land like the government does," said S Parasuraman, director of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. According to Parasuraman, the entire process of land selling should be governed by market forces. "Otherwise, the process will get complicated as the price difference between acquisition prices paid by private buyers and the government will be huge. And nobody would want to give land to the government at low prices," he said.

With less time left for the Parliament session, it seems unlikely that the bill will get through, said a cii official. And this will give industry a chance to push its agenda.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.