Ramesh disagrees with Standing Committee

New Delhi: Disagreeing with a Parliament panel recommendation that government should not acquire land for private business, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh today said such role cannot be completely eliminated as private companies help fulfill public interest.

Stressing that the Standing Committee recommendations are not binding, Ramesh said the new Land Acquisition Bill, which will be tabled in Parliament in the Monsoon Session, will address the panel`s concerns and not further depress the sentiments of investors in the country. "The public purpose can at times be met by government organisations and at times these are met even by private companies also. The notion that private companies serve only private interest is not something that I believe in," Ramesh told reporters here.

Citing various examples such as airports, power plants and infrastructure projects built by private players, he said, "there are interests and occasions where government consciously seeks private investment to promote public objectives." The Standing Committee on Rural Development, which tabled its report in Parliament on Thursday, had said the government should not acquire land for private businesses and stressed on a clearer definition of "public purpose" in this regard.

The Committee headed by BJP MP Sumitra Mahajan had wondered why the country should persist with the "anomalous" practice of procuring land for private enterprises, PPP enterprises and even public enterprises. Thanking the Standing Committee for spending seven months in studying the Bill, Ramesh said its "report is not binding. It is a normal practice to accept important recommendations and where the recommendations are not accepted, we give clear reasons why they have not been accepted."

Ramesh ruled out the possibility of reducing government`s role in land acquisition process, but said it should be governed by public purpose which should be clearly defined. "We must recognise that we are not in a stage of development where government role in land acquisition can be completely eliminated and abandoned," he said, adding that it is inevitable for faster industrialisation and urbanisation also.