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No need for Rahul Gandhi's land acquisition padyatra: Rajnath Singh (Interview with Rajnath Singh)

July 6, 2011 - New Delhi

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Rajnath Singh on Wednesday questioned Congress general Secretary Rahul Gandhi's decision to undertake a padyatra across Uttar Pradesh to highlight the Mayawati Government's unsatisfactory land acquisition policies.

Speaking with ANI in an exclusive interview as Gandhi's padyatra entered its second day on Wednesday, Singh said: "Rahul should focus on bringing the Land Acquisition Bill in Parliament. The BJP will support it. Why is he resorting to padyatra, we fail to understand."

"He cannot mislead the people for long. It is a political drama. The people of Uttar Pradesh are aware of the facts and the truth. If the land acquistion bill is not passed in parliament, we will stall the parliament," he added.

Singh's comments came as Gandhi headed towards Tappal on Wednesday. The padyatra will conclude on Saturday in Aligarh.

Gandhi is using the padyatra to challenge the Mayawati Government on a number if issues, specifically related to the farming community, the poor and the downtrodden in the state.

On Tuesday, he stopped at several places and ate his dinner at a farmer's house in Rampur Badli village in Greater Noida.

The Congress leader stopped after walking 19 kilometers on Tuesday, but said that he was alright.

Last month, Chief Minister Mayawati had announced a new land acquisition policy, which stressed on the fact that approval of any development project in the private sector would depend upon the consent of at least 70 per cent of the affected farmers.

The policy also said that private developers would henceforth have to directly deal with farmers for compensation, while the state would only play the role of a facilitator and notify both the parties about the acquisition of the designated land.

The state government clarified that the new policy would be implemented with prospective effect and would not cover earlier projects for which land acquisition had already taken place.

While the new policy promises added benefits to farmers, it revises some provision in the earlier land acquisition and rehabilitation policy announced on September 3, 2010.

The state government had also said that apart from the land compensation rates to be fixed after consultation process, the affected farmer would now get Rs 23,000 annuity per year per acre for the next 33 years and the annuity would increase by Rs 800 every year.

In the earlier policy, this amount was Rs 20,000 and Rs 600, respectively. If the farmer does not wish to avail of the annuity facility, he could seek one-time compensation of Rs 276,000 per acre.

Mayawati had then said that her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) would urge the Centre to enact a new national land acquisition policy during the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament.

She announced the new state policy was based on 'karar niyamavali' (policy agreement) and had been divided into three parts.

The first part deals with land to be acquired for basic infrastructure such as highways and canal. This would be based on 'karar niyamavali' process and the farmers would be given all the benefits mentioned in the earlier 2010 policy.

The second part would deal with authorities and development authorities, which prepare master plan for planned development. Under this part, 'karar niyamavali' would guide the land acquisition process and allow for all the benefits announced in the earlier policy. It would also entitle the farmers to get 16 per cent of the developed land for free. If the farmer does not intend to keep the land or part of the 16 per cent developed land, he could liquidate a part of it for cash.

The third part would deal with land acquisition for development and other commercial purposes by private developers. The developers would take the land directly from farmers and fix compensation rates. But, at least 70 per cent of the farmers should approve the land deal for the project to take off. The private developer also needs to give 16 per cent of the developed land to farmers, while the latter can liquidate a part of it in return of cash.

The farmers would be exempt from paying stamp/registration duty for the 16 per cent land. The farmer could also buy agricultural land in Uttar Pradesh within one year of the land deal without paying any stamp duty.

The state government was forced to announce the new land acquisition policy following a vociferous farmers' protest over land acquisition issues in areas such as Noida/Greater Noida and Chandauli.

Recently, Allahabad High Court had scrapped acquisition of several hundred hectares of land acquired in Noida over separate farmers' petitions. y Naveen Kapoor


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