Asking Odisha government and Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) to spare Niyamgiri Hills for bauxite, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh today said the new land acquisition bill has given legal rights to tribals and farmers to reject or accept any project.

“I would like to tell Odisha government and Vedanta to spare Niyamgiri Hills. I have been saying them since three years. But, they challenged my order in the Supreme Court which ultimately asked the state government to take opinion of the local tribals. All the Gram Sabhas (Palli Sabha in Odisha) have rejected the mining project,” Ramesh said.

He was addressing a press conference here on the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012, commonly known as the land acquisition bill.

The Rural Development Minister said he as Environment and Forest Minister had in August 2010 suspended forest clearance to the mining project. “If Odisha government is sincere to arrange raw material for Lanjigarh refinery, they should look for alternative sources instead of Niyamgiri,” Ramesh said.

Asked whether the bauxite of Niyamriri would remain unexploited, Ramesh said, “If the Palli Sabha says to go for it, then only bauxite can by explored from Niyamgiri Hills.”

Dubbing the old Land Acquisition Act as “anti-democratic”, he said the new bill will ensure that there is no forcible land acquisition.

While Describing the Land Acquisition Bill as historic and revolutionary, the Union minister said that provisions have been made to provide more compensation to the people. Farmers and landowners would be paid up to four times the market value for land acquired in rural areas. In urban areas, they would get two times the market value.

Approval of 80 per cent of local people would be required for private projects in non-scheduled area, Ramesh said adding 70 per cent land owners need to give their consent for projects which would be carried out under public-private partnership mode.

The bill, according to Ramesh, is in continuation of the UPA government’s commitment to enacting rights based legislation with the objective of empowering the common man.

Seeking to correct the wrongs of its predecessor the Land Acquisition Act 1894, the bill which has got approval of Parliament, rests on three main pillars – consent (process of acquisition), compensation, and rehabilitation and resettlement.

He said the new bill, all set to get the Presidential assent very soon, has the provisions which empowered states to make their own law to provide for benefits and safeguards that go over and above the provisions of this new law.

Under the new system, before any process of acquisition is initiated, before any notice, preliminary or otherwise is issued, there must first be a Social Impact Assessment (SIA).

The process is an elaborate exercise to determine consent, measure foreseeable impacts on a wide scale of indices. Everything, from the socio-economic impact on an area to the number of families to be affected, presence of viable alternatives and the loss of livelihood that occurs as a result, is considered and recorded.

This is accompanied by a mandatory public hearing to gauge public opinions on all matters of concern regarding the purpose for which the SIA is being carried out.

In the matter of Rehabilitation and Resettlement, Jairam said the new law incorporates entirely new provisions and links them to those related to land acquisition including a new Schedule that lists the various entitlements that accrue. Some of these benefits include houses for all affected families, he added.

Courtesy: outlook india