NEW DELHI, April 18 (Reuters) - A plan for a less chaotic
land acquisition system for roads and industry in India won
broad agreement from main political parties on Thursday.
The government announced that party representatives had
settled their differences on a bill to set clearer rules for
allowing land to be purchased for such development, and for
compensation to landowners who lose their property.
The proposed rules, which would replace laws dating back to
the 19th century, would aim to speed up major projects and help
a flagging economy, but businesses fret that they will raise
costs and could actually slow down the acquisition process.
At present, the government can forcibly purchase land for
certain projects by citing public good, a system that has led to
deadly protests by small landowners who complain they are not
Left-wing parties have said the proposed compensation for
loss of livelihood under the reform plan is not generous enough.
"A broad consensus has been reached today at the all-party
meeting on the land acquisition bill," parliamentary affairs
minister Kamal Nath of from the ruling Congress party told
He said the bill would be dealt with in the second half of a
session of parliament that begins on April 22.
Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj of the Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP) said, without giving details, that the government
had agreed to most of a dozen suggestions she had made to
fine-tune the bill.
The law could oblige developers to pay up to four times the
market price for land in rural areas and twice the market price
in urban areas, and give displaced people homes and jobs.
In the most recent draft made public, the bill required up
to four-fifths of all the landholders to agree to the sale to a
company before any land can be acquired.
"The bill in its present form would have serious
implications for economic growth in the country as it will
impact our competitiveness", A. Didar Singh, secretary general
of business chamber FICCI, said in a statement.
Left-wing parties oppose the bill, but the Congress party
and the BJP together should have enough votes to pass it.
Some investors say that while the bill is likely to raise
project costs, it will also bring policy clarity to the process
of land acquisition.
Market watchers say the bill, once passed, will likely boost
the share price of companies like DLF Ltd, India's
largest real estate developer, Sobha, Unitech and
Prestige, which own large tracts of land.
(Reporting by Nigam Prusty and Satarupa Bhattacharjya; Writing
by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Stephen Nisbet)