GoM meet on Land Acquisition Bill remains inconclusive

The meeting of the GoM on Land Acquisition Bill remained divided over the issue of retrospective acquisitions and the consent required from land owners

New Delhi: The meeting of a Group of Minister (GoM) on Land Acquisition Bill on Monday remained divided over the issue of retrospective acquisitions and the consent required from land owners with Indian Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar saying two-three meetings are required to finalise the bill, reports PTI.


During the last meeting too, the same issues had divided the members of the GoM headed by Pawar.


"No final view on retrospective clause could happen. We have not taken any final call on the suggestion that consent of two-third people will be required," a source familiar with the development said.


In Monday's meeting, some Ministers also demanded to retain the original clause of seeking consent of 80% of people (land owners) for acquiring land.


The 80% clause was earlier changed to seeking the consent of two-third (66%) of the land owners for making such acquisitions.


Talking to reporters after the meeting, Pawar said, "Two or three more meetings are needed for finalising the bill."


He said all the issues will be settled and the bill will be finalised in two or three more meetings.


"All ministers except Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia were present in the meeting. It (more meetings) will get done before this week," the sources said.


The first meeting of the GoM on the Land Acquisition Bill last month had witnessed a strong demand by some members for retaining a window of retrospective application which was done away with earlier.


The meeting had discussed threadbare the contentious clause of prospectively in the Bill and a question of Rehabilitation and Resettlement package on par with the Land Acquisition bill for the affected parties in mineral-rich forest areas.


Considering the protest from the industries and other infrastructure Ministries, the Rural Development Ministry has said it has made changes in the controversial clause which had said that the Bill would apply retrospectively.


According to this clause, the Bill would be applicable to all cases of land acquisition before the date of commencement of the Act if the award under the 1894 Act has not been made.


RINL IPO to kickstart PSU disinvestment process this month

The Rs2,500-crore IPO of the state-run Rashtriya Ispat Nigam or RINL has been deferred twice since the filing of the draft documents with SEBI

New Delhi: Indian government on Monday said it will kickstart its ambitious Rs30,000 crore disinvestment programme with stake sale in Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL), this month, reports PTI.


"We have lined up all the cases for the next six months. The first case (RINL) is coming up sometime this month," Finance Minister P Chidambaram told reporters at the Economic Editors' Conference.


The Rs2,500-crore initial public offering (IPO) of the state-run RINL has been deferred twice since the filing of the draft documents with the market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on 18th May.


An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) is likely to meet on Tuesday to decide on the date and pricing of the IPO, a source said.


The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in January had approved disinvestment of 10% of the government's 100% stake in the firm.


An official source said that government has identified four more PSUs -- NMDC, NTPC, Power Grid Corporation (PGCIL) and Engineers India (EIL) -- for divesting its minority stake.


"We have floated a paper for inter-ministerial consultation for disinvestment of NMDC, NTPC, EIL and PGCIL and the proposals would soon come up before the Cabinet," the source said.


The Department of Disinvestment (DoD), the nodal point for conducting PSU stake sale, has already got Cabinet approval for stake sale in seven companies, including RINL, Hindustan Copper, Oil India, MMTC, NALCO.


The government plans to raise Rs30,000 crore through disinvestments in 2012-13.


On the budgeted target for disinvestment, Chidambaram said, "I will be quite happy if I can meet the target and complete the timetable (for disinvestment) as laid down.


Because if we do it in the five-and-a-half months that's indeed fast-tracking".


Chidambaram said reforms are required in coal, mining, power, petroleum and natural gas, as well as infrastructure sectors to help create jobs


"There should also be no controversy over reforms in the coal, mining, power, petroleum & natural gas, and infrastructure sectors including roads, railway and shipping.


It is these sectors that are the drivers of growth," he said.


Chidambaram said the first comprehensive Cabinet paper on allowing FDI in retail was prepared by the NDA Government in 2002, in which it acknowledged that FDI in retail was essential to improve the supply chain in agriculture which alone will bring benefits to both producers and consumers.


"That paper also endorsed the argument that FDI in retail will generate millions of jobs. The idea was never rejected.


So, why should there be a controversy when the Government announced its intention to lay down guidelines in order to enable FDI in retail," he questioned.


The Indian government had last month had allowed 51% FDI in multi-brand retail.


Saying that the implementation of FDI is left to the discretion of the states, Chidambaram said, "The controversy over FDI in retail is, in my view, unnecessary and unjustified".


Absence of reforms will slow growth: Chidambaram

Without reforms, India risk a sharp and continuing slowdown of the economy which it cannot afford given the imperative need to generate jobs and incomes for a large population, most of whom are young, says the Finance Minister

New Delhi: Cautioning that absence of economic reforms will slow down growth, Indian Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Monday said political parties may oppose but should not obstruct decision making, reports PTI.


"Every government is entitled to lay down policies. Opposition to policies is legitimate, obstructionism is not," Chidambaram said while addressing the annual Economic Editors' Conference.


"The government of the day must be allowed to lay down policies, pass legislations wherever necessary, and get on with the job of implementing those policies," he added.


Noting that these were challenging times, the Minister said, "Without reforms, we risk a sharp and continuing slowdown of the economy which we cannot afford given the imperative need to generate jobs and incomes for a large population, most of whom are young."


India's economic growth during 2011-12 slipped to nine- year low of 6.5% and during the first quarter of the current fiscal it was 5.5%.


Expressing confidence that with requisite savings and investments India's economic growth rate will recover to 8% and more, and perhaps touch 9%, the Minister said, "We should keep that rate of growth as our objective and progress towards achieving that objective."


Indian government recently took host of reform initiatives but steps like hiking foreign direct investment (FDI) cap in insurance and pension to 49% would require legislative changes, which would not be possible without the support of main opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).


"Long standing structural reforms required to achieve high investment and high growth rates have been held back because of many reasons.


"Among them are...the need to forge a consensus on reforms, the practical necessity to garner support across the political spectrum to pass legislation... Nevertheless we are now addressing the difficult areas of reforms", he added.


Referring to the government decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail, Chidambaram said, "We must not fear foreign investments in India. We have the sovereign right to decide where and how foreign investments would be allowed into India."


The decisions to allow foreign investment should not be tested on the basis of undefined ideology or theory, but on a clear-headed assessment of the advantages that would accrue to India, he said.


"I have no doubt...FDI in retail, aviation and FM radio broadcasting are decisions that will benefit the economy and the country," he added.


Chidambaram also underlined the need for containing inflation and said that appreciating value of the rupee would help in brining down the cost of imported crude, petroleum products and fertilisers.


"The value of rupee is an important factor that effects the value of imports. A depreciating rupee will also impact trade and investment. Hence, the need to stabilise the exchange rate. I believe that we have met with moderate success," the Minister said.


The rupee, which touched 57.22 to a dollar on 27 June 2012, has gradually appreciated to 52.13.


The other important task before the government was to contain fiscal deficit, he said, adding, "no one will have confidence in the Indian economy if there is uncertainty about the fiscal stability of the country".


As regards the Kelkar Committee on fiscal consolidation, the Minister said that it has presented the worst-case scenario and it was the duty of the government to take steps to avoid that and "do every thing possible to contain deficits".


The government, Chidambaram added, will shortly announce a fiscal consolidation programme based on the feedback on the Kelkar Committee report.


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