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Mamata virtually nixes land acquisition bill


 If you thought the absence of ``unreasonable'' allies would make it all smooth for UPA 2, think again. For, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has virtually capped the government's proposal to introduce a greater balance between the land holder's rights and the imperatives of land acquisition for industry and public purposes by shooting down the twin land acquisition and relief and rehabilitation Bills. 



Banerjee raised the red flag at an eventful meeting of the Union Cabinet on Thursday evening when she made an emotional pitch, saying she had fought and won the poll battle on land acquisition issues and could not return to Singur or Nandigram if the Bills were passed in the present shape. She said she had specifically discussed the issues with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. 



Making it clear that she did not want any state role in land acquisition for industry, Banerjee said the clause enjoining the private party to acquire 70% of the land while the government would, if needed, help with the remaining 30% had to be changed. She said entire 100% of land required must be acquired by private promoters of any project. 



She has argued that in a state like West Bengal, with fragmented land holdings, problems are bound to crop up in land acquisition bids. And in that event, the proposed law would kick in, empowering the state government to intervene. In other words, in states like West Bengal the government role in land acquisition would then become institutionalized ^ something to which she has been opposed. 



As the Congress leadership is unlikely to push this Bill through unilaterally, and Didi has promised the oppose the bills if brought to Parliament tooth and nail, there is a logjam on the issue. The cabinet had felt the bills be introduced in Parliament and then referred to a standing committee, but this does not seem acceptable to Mamata Banerjee. 



At a meeting with government's chief trouble-shooter Pranab Mukherjee, she is understood to have urged that these bills should not be introduced at all in Parliament. She was of the opinion that bills should be sent back to the rural development ministry and re-worked in keeping with her suggestions which she handed over in a note. 



These suggestions are, that government doesn't get into land acquisition at all; that where acquired land has not been put to the designated use (as in Singur now), it should be handed bank to the land owners; land held by government may be handed over to industry, and that private holdings only in mono-crop or barren land may be put up for acquisition by industry. 



As it happens, the two bills, formulated in 2007, have already been through a standing committee in the last Lok Sabha. The government had pushed them through the 14th Lok Sabha in its dying days but failed to clear the Rajya Sabha hurdle. 



Banerjee put off her departure for Kolkata on Friday evening in order to meet Pranab Mukherjee after she skipped his lunch in Parliament where all leaders of parties were invited. TMC chief rode a populist wave over Singur when she took up a pro-farmer and anti-land acquisition stand, which she cannot afford to jettison now, especially as she has her eyes on the 2011 Assembly elections. 



The bill suggests that a 15-member committee be set up by every state govt to oversee the smooth acquisition of land by industry, and such a committee should be chaired by the state's chief secretary. But Mamata's point of objection is that the bill does not talk about any mechanism that will take necessary action against the committee, in case of irregularities and does not include the Opposition.
 

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Published in Property Law
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