The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday went all out to convince the Opposition that the changes to the Land Acquisition Act...
The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday went all out to convince the Opposition that the changes to the Land Acquisition Act, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, were in the interests of farmers. While on Tuesday BJP leaders led by finance minister Arun Jaitley had countered allegations by opposition parties that the amendments were not in favour of farmers, on Wednesday, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari accused them of practising double standards.
With the BJP facing opposition even from it allies like the Shiv Sena, Gadkari highlighted the fact that the compensation being offered now — four times the value of the land — was in fact higher than the level offered by states such as Maharashtra. Pointing out how the highways and coal ministries had compensated farmers to the tune of R2,000 crore after coal and land ordinances had been promulgated, the minister observed that 13 frequently used Acts that had been left out of the purview of the land Act had been brought into its fold, by which a larger numbers of farmers and families would get compensation.
Gadkari, however, said the government was open to any suggestions. “If people have some opinion on social impact assessment or consent clauses, we are willing to hear them,” he told reporters. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asserted at the BJP parliamentary meet that there was no going back on the changes.
The ordinance has exempted certain categories of projects from conducting a social impact assessment (SIA) study and also from the consent clause under which private companies must obtain the prior consent of at least 80% of the affected families and public-private partnership projects must obtain that of at least 70%. These projects include those for rural infrastructure including electrification, affordable housing, industrial corridors, infrastructure and social infrastructure projects, including PPP projects where the ownership of the land continues to vest with the government.
According to ministry documents, several states had observed at a meeting in June 2014 that the land Act passed by the UPA government in 2013 made development difficult. Ministry documents show that Haryana (then ruled by the Congress) was in favour of doing away with the consent clause for PPP projects or bringing it down to 50% from 70%. The Kerala government, also led by the Congress, had observed in its comments that identifying landowners and obtaining their consent prior to the preliminary notification could prove to be difficult.