Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh dismissed claims that the new Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act is going to delay industries and consequently increase the costs of setting up business in India.
In an exclusive interview to Shereen Bhan on CNBC-TV18, he said, "The (new) law has specified all the timelines. The Social Impact Assessment will be completely time-driven and there are provisions for strict penalties for defaulters. We will be issuing the draft rules in the next 2-3 weeks for public discussion and consultation."
The bill has drawn flak from industry as companies expect the bill to raise their land acquisition costs. However, the minister has maintained that the Bill will be beneficial to the industry.
He also said, "Contrary to popular belief I have been a big supporter of industrialisation & FDI even before the benefits of FDI, which is now commonplace, were apparent to every body. In fact, I was dubbed as a CIA agent for supporting FDI & globalisation."
"The political context under which this law has been passed has to be seen. All around you you have conflicts on land - Bhatta-Parsaul in Uttar Pradesh, POSCO in Odisha, Vedanta in Niyamgiri, Maruti plant in Gujarat," Ramesh said in the interview.
All these land acquisitions have been delayed beyond their time frame because of land acquisition problems even before the new law came into effect, he added.
According to him, the time frame of the Social Impact Assessment may increase industry cost marginally, but it will lead to a considerable decrease in social cost and conflict.
"The manner in which the old draconian Land Acquisition Act was used was horrible. There was no compensation, no rehabilitation and resettlement. No wonder you had conflicts on land were there in tribal areas that had Naxal problems," he said.
"Under the new law, the probability for conflict will be considerably reduced," he added.
Responding to industry concerns about the retrospective clause that has been added to the Land Bill, he said, "It (retrospective clause) applies only to the element of compensation. If the land has been acquired under the old law, the compensation will be made according to the new law, regardless of whether the award had been given or not."
However, he said that industry is free to purchase land but would have to adhere to rehabilitation and resettlement clauses of the Land Bill. Jairam Ramesh said, "The industry is free to buy land."
But even in private land purchases, there are asymmetric power wielded on people. People are displaced and rehabilitation and resettlement commitments are not met, he added.
Ramesh had earlier credited the bill to Rahul Gandhi, which is widely viewed as a Congress election ploy by the opposition parties.
Updated Date: Dec 20, 2014 23:08:51 IST