The group of ministers set up to resolve differences over the proposed Land Acquisition Bill failed to reach a consensus in its second meeting on Monday, spelling further delay in the landmark legislation. The GoM, headed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, remained divided over several contentious issues, including retrospective acquisitions and the consent required from landowners.
The bill, being pushed by the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council, seeks to prohibit forcible acquisition of land for non-public purposes. It was referred to the GoM last month after differences emerged among key ministries. "It seems there is a requirement for a few more meetings to settle all issues, including what is to get covered under the bill and what is to be excluded," a government official told ET.
The official said the GoM could meet again on Tuesday before finance minister P Chidambaram leaves for Tokyo to attend the annual meets of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, or next week when he returns. Chidambaram did not attend the meeting on Monday, which was convened to finalise the draft of the proposed law.
The rural development ministry headed by Jairam Ramesh has suggested some changes in the proposed bill, which are being opposed by other ministries. Among the suggestions is the prospective application of the provisions of the bill instead of the earlier proposal to retrospectively apply it on land buys. "Some still feel that the measures should be applied retrospectively," the official said. Another change that the rural development ministry has agreed to is to bring down the requirement of consent of landowners to 66% from 80%. This means that if two-thirds of the owners of a tract of land proposed to be acquired give their consent, the land could be acquired by the government.
Commerce minister Anand Sharma is one of the main critics of the bill in its current form. Sharma wants land buys for special economic zones and national manufacturing investment zones to be categorized as public purpose, inviting less stringent provisions. The bill has also been opposed by top industrialists of the country. The National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council, which has industrialists including A Godrej and Ratan Tata as its members, had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking that a GoM be set up for more discussion on the proposed law. It had contended that the bill would hurt land intensive development in its current form. Other ministers who sought more clarity on the proposed bill include Road Transport and Highways Minister CP Joshi, Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath, Defence Minister AK Antony and Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily.