Mumbai: The new land acquisition law, replacing a 119-year-old "colonial" and "anti-democratic" legislation, will be notified in the next two months, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Sunday.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2013, passed by Parliament during the Monsoon Session, received the President's assent on Friday.
The bill will come into effect once the notification is issued in next two months providing for just and fair compensation to farmers while ensuring that no land could be acquired forcibly, Ramesh told a press conference here.
He said the new land acquisition law will go a long way in addressing concerns of farmers and tribals as a new clause on resettlement and rehabilitation has been introduced for the first time in the original Act of 1894.
"It (the Act) has come at a right time. There had been disappointment among farmers...protests were seen throughout the country (against unjustified land acquisition). These protests will cease to exist provided the new law is implemented sincerely," he said, dubbing the previous Land Acquisition Act as "colonial" and "anti-democratic".
All state governments are free to enact their own land acquisition laws, but they cannot undermine the law enacted by the Centre, the minister said.
"Law enacted by the Centre has established a broad basis. States can add to this new law but cannot undermine it. For the first time, a clause ensuring resettlement and rehabilitation is introduced in the new Act," he said.
Ramesh said the earlier Act had been misused frequently since most of the states acquired more than required land for various purposes.
"District collectors used to decide on compensation to farmers. There was no provision on resettlement and rehabilitation in the erstwhile act," he said. Ramesh pointed out due to absence of provision on the resettlement and rehabilitation in 1894 Act, as many as three to four crore tribals from mineral-rich areas in Central India like Jharkhand, Odisha and Maharashtra, had been displaced.
"This had paved the way for spreading the Maoist ideology in these regions. The problem of Naxal of menace is largely due to (the old) Land Acquisition law," he added.
Ramesh said new act would eradicate the practice by some states that used to acquire land and keep them idle for 20-25 years, thus depriving tribals and farmers of their dues.
"Now land cannot be forcefully acquired. If land is acquired for private companies, consent of 80 per cent of farmers will be necessary and the companies will have to give in writing to farmers. As for public-private partnership projects, consent of 70 per cent farmers is required," he said.
Compensation in rural areas on land acquisition would be four times, while in urban areas it will be twice as higher than the present compensation amount, he said. Ramesh said land acquisition in tribal areas cannot happen without permission from gram sabhas.
"We have changed the definition of urgency clause in the new law. Urgency clause will apply only in matters of national security and natural calamity. Farmers are entitled for 75 per cent additional compensation if the clause is applied in matters of national security and natural calamity," he said.
Ramesh refused to take questions on Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi's recent public outburst against the Ordinance to shield convicted politicians.
Seeking to allay fears of the Indian industry, Ramesh said the new law would apply only to land acquired by Central and state authorities for public purposes and not to purchase of private land.
"Industry must look beyond land acquisition by government and explore land purchase opportunities. In fact, in 20 years from now, there should only be land purchases and no land acquisition," he said. Ramesh said his ministry had been working towards improving land records management in the country and promoting transparency in land sales.
He said a Rs 1,000 crore National Land Record Modernisation Programme was being implemented with focus on computerisation of land records, digitisation of maps and resurvey.
Ramesh said though Maharashtra has progressed well, it is yet to catch up with Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka and Tripura.