Faced with stiff opposition on the land bill, the government reached out to leaders of opposition parties, including Sonia Gandhi, and activist Anna Hazare inviting them to an open debate on the issue while asserting that the bill was “very much in farmers’ interest”.
In a letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, leaders of other opposition parties and social activist Anna Hazare, Union Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari said the government was willing to debate all aspects of the bill which is awaiting clearance in the Rajya Sabha.
A united and aggressive opposition, led by the Congress, is blocking the bill’s passage in Rajya Sabha and submitted a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee earlier this week, terming the land bill as “anti-farmer”.
Gadkari, while claiming that the opposition parties were criticising the bill for “political reasons”, invited all leaders of major parties as well as Hazare for an open debate on any platform to discuss the nuances of the bill.
“The Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has brought significant amendments to the land acquisition bill keeping the interest of farmers and rural development in mind. But some parties and organisations are opposing this bill for political reasons.
“No compromise has been made in the bill with the compensation provisions for land owners. No provision of the bill is anti-farmer… In fact, the bill will bring prosperity to villages and farmers and we are ready to debate the bill on any forum,” he said in his letter.
Taking on the Opposition for “projecting” the bill as “anti-farmer”, Gadkari said while the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s land act had kept 13 laws outside the ambit of the provisions of mandatory consent and social impact, the BJP government has added some more important issues to the exempted list, to which the opposition parties have objected.
“Some of the laws the UPA exempted are the National Highways Bill, the Railways Bill… We have added some more important issues to it… Should farmers not get water in their fields? Should villages not prosper? Is national security not important?” Gadkari asked in the letter.
Arguing that the government was “dedicated to the welfare of farmers, poor and labourers”, Gadkari said, “An impression is being created that we brought the amendments without speaking to the opposition. We held a meeting with all states and incorporated in our bill their suggestions. We are ready to debate this bill on any platform.”
The government is keen to pass the Land Acquisition bill in the current session of Parliament as the related ordinance is set to lapse on April 5.
The Opposition has, however, adopted an inflexible stand on the issue and is demanding that the bill be referred to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha.
The Lok Sabha, where the government enjoys a majority, had cleared the Bill on March 11.
BJP is treading cautiously on the crucial land bill and is awaiting the response of other parties on the other two bills – the Mines and Coal bills – in Rajya Sabha.
With the Land Acquisition Ordinance expiring on April 5, the government may prorogue the first part of the current budget session in case the land bill is not passed and promulgate the ordinance afresh.
Government sources said there are a number of precedents under which such a thing can be done and the government claims to be on a “strong wicket” on this, as some ordinances have been issued four times and even seven times in the past.