New Delhi, May 18 - 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 fulfil 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 yesterday, 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.
Stressing the need for a new land acquisition act, Ramesh said the 117-year-old law does not fulfil the principles of fair and equitable compensation to land owners.
"At a time when investor sentiment is uncertain and economic growth is also under pressure in our country, we need to quickly resolve the issue of land acquisition law. The 1894 law was not fair and equitable. We need a new law quickly to end the uncertainty," he said.
The overriding priority of the country is to revive the momentum of economic growth and the Land Acquisition Bill in the Monsoon Session will help in reviving and restoring economic growth and investor sentiments, he said.
Ramesh favoured giving maximum flexibility to the state governments in land acquisition process and promised that their suggestions will be incorporated in the new Bill.
He also said that the "procedure of acquisition must be timely and transparent and should not be such that it leads to endless litigations or court procedures or to endless disputes."
The Minister favoured an equitable and fair compensation for both who will lose their land as well as their livelihood due to the acquisition process.
Replying to questions on difference of opinion with key UPA ally Trinamool Congress over the issue, Ramesh said the Bill was presented in Parliament with the consent of its chief Mamata Banerjee.
"Mamata Banerjee was fully in support of the bill that was presented in Parliament. The Bill was presented after two rounds of discussions with her personally and with her personal approval... If required I will discuss it again with her," he said.
On concerns raised by state governments on acquisition of agriculture and multi-crop lands, he said more consultation will be held with the Agriculture Minister to address the concerns raised by Standing Committee on this issue.
When asked to comment on the Committee's opinion that the Bill was presented in the House in haste, Ramesh said, "The committee has made many recommendation and many observations.
I take the recommendations seriously and only read the observations." PTI