The Narendra Modi government on Monday indicated that it is willing to make some changes to the land acquisition amendment Bill — it seeks to do away with the requirement of majority consent of landowners for five sectors, including infrastructure and defence — to allay fears that farmers’ interest are being sacrificed.
Opposition MPs from the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Left, BJD, AIADMK and NCP have criticised the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill 2015, which was moved for consideration and passage by rural development minister Birender Singh. They call the bill “anti-farmer.”
Intervening in the discussion, parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu said the government needs to consider some of the suggestions given by MPs of the opposition parties. “The Modi government will not allow a single act that will go against farmers,” Naidu said, defending the central government which brought in the Bill after consultation with states.
In a conciliatory note, PM Modi himself in a reply to the motion of thanks to the President’s address had said the government was open to suggestions if the Bill contained any clause that hurt the interests of farmers.
“We are not in favour of amendments,” said Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress leader in the Lok Sabha. The Bill should be sent to the standing committee of Parliament for examination, he added. Naidu countered this by saying that the Bill needs to be approved by April 5 to become law as the ordinance issued on it would lapse after that.
Indications are there that the government may tighten rules for land acquisition for sectors which are outside the purview of the mandatory social impact assessment and consent clause.
The Bill does away with the requirement of consent of landowners for projects in defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing industrial corridors and infrastructure projects under PPP mode. It also exempts these five categories from the requirement of social impact assessment conducted to identify affected families and calculate the social impact when land is acquired.
The Bill retains the compensation announced for farmers in the current Act and extends it to 13 more sectors such as national highways, metro rail, atomic energy projects and electricity-related projects.
Among other major changes, the bill proposes that its provisions will apply to land acquired for private hospitals and educational institutions.
While the Bill will have a smooth sail in the Lok Sabha, it will set the stage for confrontation in the Rajya Sabha where the government is in a minority. If defeated in the Rajya Sabha, the government may call for a joint session of both houses to get it passed along with other pending Bills, such as the insurance laws amendment Bill that seeks to raise foreign investment cap in the sector.
To the NDA government’s discomfort, even alliance partner Shiv Sena has called it anti-farmer and suggested suitable changes to protect the interests of landowners from the clutch of private companies.
When approved, the Bill will amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Amendment Act, 2013, which was brought in by the UPA.
* Parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu said the government needs to consider some of the suggestions given by MPs of opposition parties
* He also said the Bill needs to be approved by April 5 to become law as the ordinance issued on it would lapse after that
* Indications are there that the government may tighten rules for land acquisition for sectors which are outside the purview of the mandatory social impact assessment and consent clause