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Draft land bill gets Mamta nod

Kolkata:  Trinamool Congress, a key UPA ally, has expressed "broad support" for the draft land acquisition bill that is expected to be introduced in Parliament early next week, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said here today.

"Chief Minister (Mamata Banerjee) has expressed broad support for the bill, particularly the R&R (resettlement and rehabilitation) package of the bill," Ramesh told reporters after a two-hour meeting with her at the state secretariat.

"With the support of the honourable chief minister, I think we will be able to introduce this bill after cabinet approval early next week," Ramesh, who was flanked by Banerjee, said.

Banerjee, however, stressed that states should have freedom to have their own land acquisition laws. She also stated that she was against forcible land acquisition.

"She has reiterated that the state government should be free to have its own land acquisition law. There is no compulsion in the central law. State governments should be free to have their own laws," the union minister said.

Banerjee said that Ramesh had earlier consulted the state government on the draft land acquisition bill.

"The Union Cabinet meeting is due in one or two days. He (Ramesh) has come to seek our opinion on the draft bill. I am thankful that he had sought our opinion earlier also," she said.

Banerjee welcomed the Centre`s move to change the 1894 land acquisition act, which was a "draconian and black law" that had led to "bloodshed and unrest" over land acquisition as witnessed in various parts of the country.

"We were the first to raise the demand that this act should be changed and ultimately the Government is going to change it. We welcome this," Banerjee said.

Banerjee said the state government had clearly stated in its own land policy that it would not forcibly acquire land, except in case of natural disaster like breach of embankment, or urgent security reasons.

"Secondly, we are for negotiation and opposed to forcible acquisition and that view of us too was also conveyed to him (Ramesh)," she added.

In the draft bill, the Centre had a provision for 80 per cent and 20 per cent which was earlier 70 per cent and 30 per cent "in accordance with our demand which means that the land will be acquired only if 80 per cent of the people accept the acquisition," she said.

"I will go for R&R package if I have to give land to private parties by adhering to the Central laws in respect of those who will buy the land on their own," she said.

"We will give our opinion in areas where we are concerned. No problem. I have seen the R&R package which is good and positive."

She said states should be given options that their laws should be applicable in such conditions and the Centre should allow it. "If such freedom is given to the state, then there is no scope of confrontation with states."

Banerjee said that her government had stated its stand.

"We will express our opinion when there will be discussion on the bill. We are formulating our own land policy which is in final stages of preparation. A group of ministers is looking into it and it will be finalised in seven to eight days."

The Trinamool Congress chief said, "We are concerned about one, two or three points (in the draft bill) and that we have conveyed to him (Ramesh). It cannot be that there will be identical opinions with them (Centre) 100 per cent on all matters."

She said "in collective interest, we have said we will not go for confrontation if the Centre has any difficulty. We have our obligations and limitations."

Stating that the draft bill was better than the earlier version, she said, "It would have been better had there been some more modifications.

"We had discussions on these options. I am happy he has discussed and accepted many of our viewpoints, and some not where it had some concerns."

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