It’s not just the Land Acquisition Bill, the NDA government has also put on hold proposed amendments to the Seeds Bill, mainly due to a clause on the use of genetically modified (GM) seeds that it fears would portray it as being anti-farmer.
The final proposal on the Seeds Bill was submitted to the Cabinet Secretariat by July-end to be brought before the Cabinet for approval so that it could be pursued in the Rajya Sabha during the monsoon session.
However, following the backlash against the land acquisition Bill, which created a scare among farmers, and with Bihar elections around the corner, the Cabinet Secretariat has been directed not to list the Seeds Bill, for now.
The move comes despite three rounds of inter-ministerial consultations on the Seeds Bill, during which all ministries agreed to its major provisions, including five recent amendments. The Bill was first introduced in Rajya Sabha in December 2004.
Among the proposed amendments is a clause to ensure uniformity in laws relating to the import and export of seeds and use of GM seeds with existing national regulations.
However, many BJP-ruled states, such as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, have denied permission for field trials on GM seeds. Non-BJP ruled states, such as Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, are also opposed to the introduction of GM seeds and plant material.
Initially, the amendments were perceived as pro-farmer as they were aimed at regulating seeds and planting material to ensure their quality, increase private participation in production and distribution, liberalise imports, and protect the rights of farmers.
This was what prompted the NDA government to take up the decade-old Bill and circulate the first Cabinet draft to relevant ministries for comments in November 2014. The additional amendments were incorporated this April and the proposal was re-circulated.
Based on the ministries’ feedback, the final proposal was readied within two months and submitted to the Cabinet Secretariat before it was put on hold.
Incidentally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced on Sunday that his government would not re-promulgate the controversial ordinance on land acquisition which expired on Monday. He also declared the government’s readiness to incorporate any suggestions in the land bill, which is pending in Rajya Sabha.