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Deals jump in four states as talks on land acquisition bill begin

NEW DELHI: In the run up to the finalisation of the Land Acquisition bill there has been a sudden spurt in the number of land transactions across a handful of states, the minister of rural development Jairam Ramesh said. "We have been told that there has been a significant rise in land deals in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and any further delay in the passage of the bill will only hurt the cause of the farmers and not help them," Ramesh told ET a day before he addresses an all-party meeting called to build a consensus on the bill, a key reform promised by the UPA government. The Bill, which seeks to replace the archaic Land Acquisition Act 1894, aims at fairly compensating the land owners and resettle them in the event of losing control over their land. The government hopes to get the bill cleared in the second half of the budget session of parliament that resumes on April 22. In urban areas the compensation will be computed on basis of the value of land transactions in preceding three years and in rural areas by doubling the value arrived at using the prescribed methodology. However, states will be empowered to increase the compensation if they feel so. The minister said he had received very optimistic feedback to the bill and most differences had by and large been ironed out. "Some have written to us while other parties have verbally communicated and apart from a few ideological issues I feel mostly all of us agree to the significance of this bill," he said. "For instance the Left wants that government shouldn't acquire land which will be for use of private companies". Sources said that the BJP has highlighted a string of issues such as including safeguards against excess acquisition of land.