Land Acquisition Law is Draconian: Mamata

New Delhi
Land Acquisition Law is Draconian: Mamata
Terming the land acquisition law as "draconian", Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, a staunch opponent of the proposed amendments to the measure, today said that she is against "forcible" acquiring of land.

"I am against forcible land acquisition. Land acquisition law is a draconian law as it is not only me but everybody has said so," Banerjee said at an economic editors' conference here.

"We are using our land bank for various railway projects including the dedicated freight corridor (DFC) and there is no need for forcible land acquisition," she said.

Railways have created a land bank of 1.33 lakh acres to be used for various rail projects.

"Even if we acquire any land, it will be acquired with the consent of the land owner with adequate compensation including a job offer," she said.

Just two days ago, Banerjee skipped a meeting convened by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to sort out differences on the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007.

The meeting was aimed at hammering a way out for the passage of the Bill which the Railway Minister believes would run counter to the stand she took over Nandigram and Singur issues in West Bengal.

Banerjee said Railways had suffered losses to the tune of Rs 1500 crore due to poor law and order situation and bandhs. "It is becoming a soft target for all these bandhs. Our night operations are still suspended in some areas due to the law and order problem.

"Every other day there is a bandh by these extremists. Train operation has been suspended in Kashmir due to the law and order problem. We have lost more than Rs 1500 crore to these bandhs in these years," the Minister said.

On DFC project, Banerjee said, "We have given 2,400 acres land for the western RFC."

Admitting that thee pace of setting up new rail lines is slow, she said, "It is true that 75 per cent of our existing lines were constructed by British. Our aim is to add 1000 km of new lines every year and it has been envisaged in our Vision 2020 document."

She also sought government's help in laying new lines. "Government should give us some funds and we are also seeking private investment for the new rail lines as the funds are limited for new projects."

Elaborating on private participation in construction of rail lines, she said there is a lot of scope to add new lines in port and coal areas.

"The chairman of Railway Board is calling a meeting with industries to carry forward the private participation plan," she said.

Asked about the possibility of rail link for Nathula Pass, she said it is a subject of External Affairs and Home Ministries.

However, she clarified that Gangtok rail line was being worked out. "Gangtok rail link is definitely on the cards and we are working it out," she said,.

Currently, railways are also undertaking survey in hilly areas for laying rail lines.
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