India to introduce key land bill in parliament

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NEW DELHI, September 6, 2011 (AFP) – India’s cabinet has cleared a new land acquisition bill to be introduced in parliament Wednesday, aimed at addressing the concerns of farmers whose land is purchased for industrial development. The bill, adopted by the cabinet late Monday, seeks to give farmers fairer prices for their land — a politically charged issue that has delayed many mega-projects.

“The law will ensure the need for faster growth, faster urbanisation and faster industrialisation is balanced with the need to protect the interest of landowners. Balance is the key,” Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said.

The legislation will be referred to committee for consideration after it is introduced in parliament and is expected to be submitted to lawmakers during the winter session.

The bill is intended to replace a more than century-old law framed by India’s former British colonial rulers.

A draft unveiled in July proposed giving farmers as much as six times the market rate for their land when it is taken over for development purposes.

Ramesh did not say whether the bill approved by the cabinet contained the same provisions but domestic media reports said it had been watered down.