New national policy on land acquisition: Cabinet

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New Delhi, Oct 11: The government today announced that the new National Policy on Rehabilitation and Resettlement 2007 would provide land-for-land compensation for acquisition of land for development purposes, including special economic zones (SEZs), and employment to at least one person from each affected family.

A Bill would be introduced in the winter session of Parliament beginning next month amend the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi told reporters.

The move was cleared at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The new policy would also have a compensation mechanism for those who lose their land in natural calamities.

It would replace the National Policy on Resettlement and Rehabilitation for Project Affected Families, 2003. A gazette notification will be issued shortly to bring into effect the new policy.

A National Rehabilitation Commission would be set up by the Central Government, which would be duly empowered to exercise independent oversight over the rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected families.

The move comes in the light of the recommendations of the Group of Ministers (GoM) which had gone into the existing policy put in place by the BJP-led NDA government in February 2004.

The GoM had been set up in the wake of controversies over land acquisition for the small car project of the Tatas in Singur and for the SEZ in Nandigram, both in West Bengal.

The proposed Bill would be subsequently referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee to further finetune its provisions, accommodating the views of all sections of people, Mr Dasmunsi said.

The new policy would ''strike a balance between the need for land for development purposes and protecting the interests of land owners and other displaced people,'' particularly the SCs, STs, OBCs and other marginal farmers, the Minister said.

Job would be provided to at least one person from each affected family, subject to availability of vacancy and the suitability of the affected persons seeking employment.

The existing policy had proved to be ''disastrous'' for farmers, Mr Dasmunsi said.

The move would redeem a major commitment of the Congress made at the party's Chief Ministers' Conclave at Dehradun two years ago amid the growing concern of land losers in the face of rapid industrialisation. Both Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made assurances in this regard, he said.

Ms Gandhi had made it clear that oral assurances were not sufficient and a definite legislative mechanism was necessary.

The benefits under the new policy would be available to all affected persons and families whose land, property or livelihood is adversely affected by land acquisition or by involuntary displacement of a permanent nature due to any other reason, such as natural calamities.

The Policy will be applicable to all these cases irrespective of the number of people involved.

The other benefits would include training and capacity building for taking up suitable jobs and for self-employment, scholarships for education of the eligible persons from the affected families and preference to groups of cooperatives of the affected persons in the allotment of contracts and other economic opportunities in or around the project site.

Further, wage employment would be provided to the willing affected persons in the construction work in the project, housing benefits including houses to the landless affected families in both rural and urban areas.

Adequate provisions have also been made for financial support to the affected families for construction of cattle sheds, shops, and working sheds; transportation costs, temporary and transitional accommodation, and comprehensive infrastructural facilities and amenities in the resettlement area including education, health care, drinking water, roads, electricity, sanitation, religious activities, cattle grazing, and other community resources.

The benefits expressed in monetary terms have been linked to the Consumer Price Index, and the same shall also be revised suitably at appropriate intervals.

The Requiring Bodies shall be responsible for development of designated areas on the periphery of the project site, and shall earmark funds for the purpose of such periphery development activities.

A special provision has been made for providing life-time monthly pension to the vulnerable persons, such as the disabled, destitute, orphans, widows, unmarried girls, abandoned women, or persons above 50 years of age (who are not provided or cannot immediately be provided with alternative livelihood).

Special provision for the STs and SCs include preference in land-for-land for STs followed by SCs; a Tribal Development Plan which will also include a programme for development for alternate fuel which will also include a programme for development for alternate fuel and non-timber forest produce resources, consultations with Gram Sabhas and Tribal Advisory Councils, protection of fishing rights, land free-of-cost for community and religious gatherings and continuation of reservation benefits in resettlement areas.

A strong grievance redressal mechanism has been prescribed, which includes standing R&R Committees at the district level, R&R Committees at the project level, and an Ombudsman duly empowered in this regard.

The R&R Committees shall have representatives from the affected families including women, voluntary organisations, Panchayats, local elected representatives, etc. Provision has also been made for post-implementation social audits of the rehabilitation and resettlement schemes and plans.

For effective monitoring of the progress of implementation of R&R plans, provisions have been made for a National Monitoring Committee, a National Monitoring Cell, mandatory information sharing by the States and UTs with the National Monitoring Cell, and Oversight Committees in the Ministries/Departments concerned for each major project.

For ensuring transparency, provision has been made for mandatory dissemination of information on displacement, rehabilitation and resettlement, with names of the affected persons and details of the rehabilitation packages. Such information shall be placed in the public domain on the Internet as well as shared with the concerned Gram Sabhas and Panchayats by the project authorities.


UNI

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