President Ram Nath Kovind has given approval for two land amendment Bills in Gujarat state that proposes to allot surplus agriculture land, meant for landless farmers, to industries and civic bodies of the state.
The two bills are the Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling (Amendment) Bill 2015 and the Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
Gujarat Congress had opposed the legislation, alleging that surplus agriculture land acquired during land reform days in the 1960s that are meant for landless and marginal farmers will be handed over to industrialists.
The Bill first introduced in 2015 under the then BJP chief minister Anandiben Patel was returned by the Centre twice, on grounds that it deviated from the original 1960 Act and would affect agricultural production. In its reply the Gujarat government had told the Centre that surplus land will be allotted to industries only in return for land somewhere else, thereby not affecting the land bank.
According to the Agricultural Land Ceiling Act, 1960 there is a cap on holding agricultural land and the Act empowers the State government to acquire surplus land and allot it to landless farmers.
“The State assembly had unanimously passed amendments to the Bill, but it was pending with the Centre for over two years. After the necessary changes were made by the State government in the legislation, it was sent to the President for assent,” said a senior home ministry official.
Gujarat government had told the Centre that some of the acquired surplus lands was not viable for farming. It also said that the civic bodies will be asked to use the land to construct schools or other public amenities.