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Sonia Gandhi: Land acquisition should not mean loss of fertile land

New Delhi, Sep 9 (Calcutta Tube) Land acquisition should be carried out in a manner that does not result in the loss of large tracts of fertile agricultural land, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said Thursday.

Dedicating the stage II of National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC) Dadri power project to the nation, she said new industry and infrastructure cannot be built without acquiring land but such acquisition should not endanger food security and leave farmers without livelihood opportunities.

‘Land acquisition must be done in a manner that does not result in the loss of large tracts of fertile and productive agricultural lands so indispensable to cultivate food grains needed to feed our people. And if farmers are of necessity deprived of their land-based livelihood, they must be provided with adequate compensation and alternative occupations,’ she said.

States like Haryana have progressive legislation on land acquisition and other states would do well to emulate it, Gandhi said.

The Congress chief’s remarks have come within days of farmers in Uttar Pradesh launching an agitation against land acquisition by the Mayawati government for Yamuna Expressway and seeking higher compensation. The Supreme Court had Wednesday rejected petitions filed by farmers objecting to acquisition of land.

Gandhi also emphasised the issue of environment, saying while more power was needed to meet the growing demands from farmers, factories and people, environment concerns should be kept in mind to ensure sustainable development.

‘In whatever we do, we must not forget that our lush forests and mountains, majestic rivers and all other water sources, and clean air have sustained and nurtured us for millennia. We have a responsibility to preserve them for the coming generations,’ she said.

Gandhi also said said that India’s future requirements necessitate that much more attention be paid to clean and renewable sources of energy.

‘Now that parliament has passed the civil nuclear liability bill, India is in a position to invest in nuclear power to help meet its growing needs,’ she said.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world but there was still much poverty and essential services such as electricity were yet to reach all homes, she noted.

Noting that majority of population still lives in rural areas, she said it was the government’s obligation to ensure that affordable electricity was provided to all the sections of population.

‘It is also evident that if we are to sustain our pace of economic growth and lift all our people out of poverty, the power sector has to lead the way,’ she said.

Referring to Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s remarks about his ministry intending to add more than 62,000 MW during the 11th Plan, she said good beginning has been made and work was on track to achieve the target.

‘This is of the utmost importance because the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) has the ambitious goal of providing electricity to all our villages. Not just that – the supply of electricity has to be reliable and continuous,’ she said.

Gandhi said it was a matter of pride that it has been completed in a record 39 months and congratulated NTPC for commissioning of both the units of Dadri project ahead of the scheduled time.

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