Opinion: Congress can’t stop liberal land laws in the states

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Updated: August 20, 2015 10:33 AM

Easy land acquisition norms are a must for improving the business environment and the states have to find a way for this to promote growth

land billEasy land acquisition norms are a must for improving the business environment and the states have to find a way for this to promote growth. (Reuters)

Indian Railways

It is hardly surprising that the Congress party after blocking the NDA’s Land Bill diluting the consent and social impact clauses of the 2013 Land Acquisition Act, is now trying to stall similar changes by the states in their laws. But, this may be a futile exercise by the party as the changes, if supported by the Centre, and in this case it is a given, are almost guaranteed to get through with the President’s assent, as has been the case in Rajasthan’s labour law modifications.

In fact, Rajasthan has also taken the lead in this process by already introducing the changes in its land acquisition law on the lines of the central NDA Bill in the assembly and the select committee of the assembly has also given its go ahead with minor modifications such as hiking the compensation for farmers. While it is expected that the state will soon get the Bill cleared in the assembly, it has also decided to attune the existing rules as per the NDA Bill through administrative measures as a first step in this direction.

It is true that it is on the President to give his assent to a state legislation under Article 254(2) of the Constitution in areas falling under the concurrent list, and the Congress party would urge him not to do that in the case of land acquisition act changes arguing that they would be against the basic tenets of the current Central Act, it is unlikely to yield much.

With the BJP backtracking on the dilution of the 2013 Act in the joint parliamentary committee, which is now slated to submit its report in the winter session, the NDA government might just focus now on the BJP-ruled states getting their laws modified as per the norms prescribed in the Ordinance promulgated by the Centre — which, it should have done earlier sensing the opposition unity on the issue.

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh calls it bypassing the Central Act, but if the states have to improve their business improvement, they have to remove hurdles in getting land and labour besides procedural simplifications. The reality is that states, the non-NDA ones too, have understood this and are moving in this direction, even if they are not making it as explicit as the BJP-ruled states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy in his column in The Financial Express today has pointed out that even a state like West Bengal is making its labour law business-friendly. There is no doubt that the states are increasingly understanding the need for attuning their laws according to the needs of the business to promote growth as it is being seen election after election that people have started preferring improvement in their living standard over mere politics when it comes to voting for a party.

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