West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose agitation over land acquisition for industry catapulted her to power, is reluctant to recompense those losing land at rates set by a central law.
West Bengal is yet to implement the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, the law that replaced the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, on January 1 this year. The new law requires state governments to offer four and two times the market value of land being acquired in the countryside and around towns, respectively.
The state government has said it will pay four times the market value only if the land is least 120 km away from a town. At a less distance, the compensation should be at the rate set for towns. "The price of land in rural areas adjacent to cities is already quite high. It will be only fair that rural areas are graded on distance and the compensation fixed accordingly," said a West Bengal government official who did not wish to be named.
The state's law minister, Chandrima Bhattacharya, recently wrote to New Delhi, saying compensation was a reason for not implementing the new law. West Bengal is seeking a meeting with the Union law minister before giving its consent to the law.
Banerjee will make her first foreign visit in a few weeks to Singapore with a business delegation to attract investment for West Bengal.
The state is yet to get a response from New Delhi but the Centre might find it difficult to accommodate West Bengal because Maharashtra and Bihar have already implemented the new law that aims at rehabilitation and resettlement alongside fair compensation.
Former Union rural development minister, Jairam Ramesh, had said while framing the law that Banerjee's Singur and Nandigram agitations had galvanised the Centre to replace the colonial Act. The Trinamool Congress had opposed the law in Parliament, demanding consent of all people losing land for a project, instead of the proposed 80 and 70 per cent, respectively, for private and public-private partnership projects.
Sep 7: UPA govt introduces the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill in the Lok Sabha
Apr: The then rural development minister, Jairam Ramesh, meets TMC's Mamata Banerjee, Mukul Roy, Sudip Bandyopadhay to get the party on board
Jun: Provision on unused land in the Bill changed at TMC's insistence
Jul: Provision for compensation to sharecroppers and others dependent on land introduced in consultation with TMC
Aug 29: Lok Sabha passes the Bill; TMC opposes, insists on concurrence of 100% land owners
Sep: Ramesh meets Banerjee for a second time to gain her support; Rajya Sabha passes the Bill; TMC continues to oppose; the Bill gets the President's assent
Jan 1: The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2014, comes into force
Aug: The Bengal government under Banerjee writes to the Centre suggesting some changes to the Act.