Land bill, new board to push mega projects

Tags: News

PM-led cabinet panel to vet Rs 1,000 cr-plus investments

The long-awaited land acquisition bill and the much-delayed proposal to set up a cabinet committee on investment to speed up clearance of projects worth over Rs 1,000 crore were cleared by the cabinet on Thursday. The bill is expected to go before Parliament next week.

The cabinet is understood to have decided that any land acquisition by the private sector must have the consent of at least 80 per cent of those losing land.

The cabinet is believed to have also decided that in public-private partnership (PPP) projects the consent of 70 per cent of land losers would be enough.

No such consent will be required in case of land acquisition by state or Union government agencies.

The land acquisition bill introduced in Parliament earlier has been vetted by the parliamentary standing committee concerned. The government will re-introduce the bill in Parliament with the changes approved by the cabinet. The new rules can be applied with retrospective effect.

The bill stipulates land compensation for land losers; it prescribes that rehabilitation colonies must have facilities like schools and hospitals.

“The proposal to set up a cabinet committee on investment, headed by the prime minister, to fast track projects of over Rs 1,000 crore was also cleared,” according to an official.

It was finance minister P Chidambaram who had first proposed such a body. He had told the full planning commission meeting earlier this year that it could be called national investment board (NIB).

It was to have wide powers, overriding those of some ministries. At least two ministers, Jayanti Natarajan and Jairam Ramesh, objected to this. In view of this resistance, a sub-committee of the cabinet with ministers in charge of infrastructure sectors as members was set up to look at the matter. It was then clear that NIB would not come about.

“All the concerns of the environment ministry (headed by Natarajan) have been addressed,” the official said. Natarajan had said that the NIB proposal seemed to have been mooted only for the benefit of large firms and investors.

The official said the land acquisition bill was finalised by the rural development ministry. It incorporated suggestions from UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who wanted the 80 per cent consent clause brought in.

She is believed to have opposed the proposal of a group of ministers that the consent threshold be two-thirds of those losing land.

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