The government was all set to bring in a new land acquisition law for better compensation and rehabilitation to farmers, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said on Thursday as unrest on the issue continued in parts of Uttar Pradesh. The new legislation, he said, would be introduced in parliament in the next session likely in July. He did “not rule out” the possibility of an ordinance laying out the new land acquisition rules till then. Chidambaram said the government had earlier drafted the law but failed to build political consensus on the issue, which is why the bill could not be tabled in parliament. “We must have a new land acquisition act. Consensus building has taken some time,” the home minister said after the meeting of the newly constituted Group of Ministers (GoM) to communicate the government’s policies and decisions to the public through the media.
Chidambaram heads the panel that includes union ministers Ambika Soni, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, Salman Khursheed, Pawan Bansal and V. Narayanasamy. The home minister said the government had made some amendments to the land acquisition draft bill. “I can say with a fair degree of certainty that there is consensus now. It is the government’s intention to introduce that law in the next session.” He said the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh “is not a very happy situation”. His comments came as clashes between police and farmers led by political activists continued Thursday, a day after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was arrested and then released for staging a sit-in in support of the farmers. “Many villagers, farmers are protesting on the issue of acquisition of land and compensation. Political parties are espousing the cause of farmers and some lives have been lost, that is distressing,” Chidambaram said. Violence on the issue of farmers demanding higher compensation for their land led to escalated clashes in Greater Noida area leading to four people being killed – three on Saturday and one on Sunday.