My interview with rural development minister Jairam Ramesh. As always, I found him to be frank, straightforward and sharp. We discuss many issues around the land bill. These are:
The bill being a compromise.
The nuances of the 70 per cent clause.
The removal of the “poison pill”.
The industry grouse that land would become expensive.
The logic of a multiplier of four times.
And then some.
The new land law looks like a compromise.
Everywhere and every time there was a middle path. Between what the Centre can do and what the states should do. A middle path between what farmers should get and respecting industry sentiment. It was a middle path between allowing market forces to work and allowing some intelligent regulation. It was a middle path between acquiring land for urbanisation, which is inevitable, and making sure that multi-crop agriculture doesn’t get affected.
When we look at this law from the point of view of industry, one grouse is that land is going to get very expensive. They will have to move to Thailand and other places.
This is not true. What proportion of the total cost is land acquisition? A very small proportion. Of course, you’re going to pay more. But let’s be very clear. What industry has been paying, and by industry I don’t mean just private industry, I include public sector, the government, (is poor). The low prices we have been paying has been one of the main factors responsible for the anger of farmers and landless labourers. The rates we have been paying have been extraordinarily low whenever land has been acquired. And R&R has simply not been carried out. Today, I have a letter from the Irrigation Minister of Karnataka, who says that R&R promised 40 years ago has yet to be completed. I have seen some irrigation projects, where multiple displacements have taken place. So, yes, industry will have to pay more, but compared to what? Compared to the song at which you’re getting land today, particularly when you’re acquiring the land?