Hitting back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on land acquisition bill, Congress today said the government’s move to bring changes was a “smoke screen” to benefit industrialists and he was “lying” by claiming to have done favour with amendments in 13 Acts.
After Modi, in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio programme, said that lies were being spread on the issue of the Bill, the opposition party said amendments in 13 Acts were part of the mandatory provisions of the 2013 Land Acquisition Law.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also questioned the claim that defence and security related projects were being delayed due to the 2013 Act.
“Modi has claimed in his Mann ki Baat today that he has brought amendments to 13 laws. He has not done anyone a favour,” he said at a press conference at the AICC headquarters here.
He said that it was stipulated in Section 105 (3) of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 that amendments will have to be made within one year in the 13 Laws that Modi had spoken about.
“His Mann ki Baat was full of lies. He has tried to spread myth,” the former Environment Minister said.
Arguing that it was a lie that UPA forgot to amend the 13 laws, he said his government could not because there was less time and elections were approaching.
“But the Act stipulated it had to be done within one year. The Modi government slept for nearly eight months and suddenly woke up to the ordinance as a smoke-screen to benefit industrialists,” he said.
In his programme today, Modi said, “biggest lacuna” in the 2013 Act was that 13 aspects of government activity, like railways, national highways and mining, for which maximum land is acquired, were kept out of its ambit, meaning that compensation for acquiring land for these purposes would be paid on the basis of the 120-year-old law.
“Tell me, isn’t it a lacuna? Isn’t it a mistake?…We corrected this and in the new bill, these activities have been covered and as a result, four-time compensation will be given for the land acquired,” he said.
Ramesh said compensation was also not a favour as the 2013 Act stipulated for four times compensation in rural area and double in urban areas.
Describing the Modi government’s amendments to the 2013 Land Acquisition Law as “anti-farmers, pro-rich”, Ramesh said the proposed amendments does away with social impact assessment completely.
He reminded the government that the 2013 Law was passed after two years of discussions and after many amendments including three and two by Sushma Swaraj and Ravi Shankar Prasad respectively.
“The 2013 Law already stipulates that land acquisition can take place for national security and defence projects under ‘urgency clause’ without going through the consent and social impact assessment procedures.
“Modi’s amendments merely repeats it and uses this as a smokescreen to extend benefit to industrialists,” he said.
Ramesh said that not only do the amendments do away with need to get written consent of farmers for a number of private and PPP projects, they allow acquisition of land extending to one KMS of both sides of the corridors which will undoubtedly herald to windfall gains for builders and developers.
Ramesh said 2013 Law has a clause for retrospective application of enhanced compensation and the return of the land has been upheld by the Supreme Court in 2014.
“The 2015 amendments invalidate these judgements by increasing the number of qualifications that need to be satisfied. The 2013 Law also said if the acquired land is not used within five years, it would be returned to the farmer or to the state’s land bank,” he said.
He added that 2015 Amendments make this open-ended and once acquired, the prospect of land being returned have been virtually eliminated.
The Congress leader argued that 2013 Law limited land acquisition for government or for private companies under specific circumstances but now the land can be acquired for any entity, organisation, NGO or individual because 2015 amendments greatly expand definition of the private entity to include all of them.
He said the Congress was ready for a debate.
To a query about Anna Hazare sharing views similar to Congress on the Land Act amendments, he said both are in touch and their ‘mann’ (minds) are joined.
The party also accused Modi of doing “somersault” on his promises to farmers after coming to power including on 50 per cent hike in Minimum Support Price.
Ahmed Patel, Political Secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, said farmers are committing suicide and jawans are being killed by terrorists under Modi’s rule.
He said that around one year back in an election rally in Hazaribagh, Modi, then a PM candidate, had “distorted” Lal Bahadur Shastri’s slogan of ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ to ‘Mar Jawan, Mar Kisan’ to attack the Congress.
“This was done just to get vote. He had also promised 50 per cent hike in MSP (Minimum Support Price) for farmers if voted to power. However in a reply to my question in Parliament his government has rejected the proposal of 50 per cent hike,” Patel said in a statement.
He said that “farmers are committing suicide and jawans are being killed by terrorist today”.
“This is not U turn but a somersault. What does PM have to say about this Mann Ki Baat?” he added.