November 9, 2014 / 5:35 AM / 5 years ago

India's finance minister vows to push land purchase reform

India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaks during the India Economic Summit 2014 at the World Economic Forum in New Delhi November 5, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India will push ahead with reform to a land purchase law blamed by business for slowing industrial projects, even if there is resistance to loosening the rules, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Sunday.

Jaitley said changes to the law were needed to fulfil Prime Minister Modi’s vision of building 100 new “smart” cities across India.

“Some changes will be necessary, we will first attempt to reach a consensus, if that’s not possible we will go ahead and take the decision,” Jaitley said, speaking at a seminar in New Delhi.

The law was passed last year with support of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party when it was in opposition, and seeks to set fair compensation for loss of livelihood for farmers who sell their land to industrial or infrastructure projects.

But its complex procedures have made it very hard for large-scale industrial projects to acquire the land they need.

The BJP would need parliamentary approval to change the law, and might struggle in the upper house where it does not have a majority.

Jaitley also said he hoped to begin a delayed program to sell stakes in government owned companies “in the next couple of days”. He said the government was aiming to bring down its equity in public sector banks to about 52 percent.

Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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