India’s cabinet approved changes to an existing law that will make it easier for the government to acquire land for “special projects,” a plan aimed at hastening the construction of a 2,700km dedicated freight line, which is being proposed with Japanese collaboration.
The Indian Railways is responsible for the ambitious dedicated dreight corridor, which is to be sponsored by the Indian government and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Based on September estimates from the railways, the corridor will cost $7 billion, though JICA has much higher estimates.
If the approval becomes law through a Parliament vote, it would allow the National Highways Authority of India to acquire land and make it available to the railways. It could also allow, said one official who didn’t want to be identified, that the railways can now appoint staff to deal with acquisition and related issues.
“Some provisions would also ensure that the land being acquired by the railways would get transferred even if the title holders to the land were to go in for litigation,” said this bureaucrat.
Railway minister Lalu Yadav has promised that all land acquisition will conform to the new rehabilitation and resettlement policy and amended Land Acquisition Act that the government introduced in Parliament in November. Both acts are with a Parliamentary standing committee.
In other moves, the cabinet or its commmitees also approved:
¢ An increase in the salaries of the President, vice-president and state governors, almost doubling monthly compensation.
¢ Five proposed memoranda of understanding that India plans to sign with China during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit later this month, for cooperation in geosciences, land resource management, urban housing development, traditional medicine and railways.
¢ A proposal to electrify and double the 307km Udhna-Jalgaon rail route in five years, at a cost of Rs714 crore
¢ Raise the minimum support price for copra by Rs40 each for two varieties for the 2008 season, to Rs3,660 and Rs3,910 a quintal.
¢ The initial public offering of Rites Ltd, the government-owned engineering consultancy and project manager, to raise Rs115 crore by selling 10 million shares. The government will also offload an additional four million shares in Rites, as a result of which the government’s holdings in the company will drop to 72%.
The cabinet decided to retain status quo and has frozen ongoing “delimitation” work in Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Jharkhand, through an ordinance that now requires the President’s assent. The boundaries of political constituencies are being redrawn by the Election Commission as part of a delimitation exercise that was completed in 25 states in late 2007. In these (five) states, the next general elections will be based on the existing constituencies.
The problems in redrawing the political map of these five states related largely to opposition from those in rural areas who were falling under urban territory due to delimitation; or, particularly in Jharkhand, where opposition had developed in tribal belts when it was suspected that the exercise would push them into “general category” seats.
Prime Minister Singh met President Pratibha Patil on Thursday evening and discussed his forthcoming visit to China and developments related to the delimitation process as well, an official release said today. The President’s assent is necessary to complete the delimitation process.