A day before a bill to replace the land acquisition ordinance is to be introduced in the Lok Sabha, Punjab's ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), an ally of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, on Tuesday decided to oppose the proposed legislation.
The decision was taken at the SAD's core committee meeting chaired by party president and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal in New Delhi. The party decided to oppose any land acquisition without the consent of a majority of the farmers or landowners. The party said the government should acquire land only for a public purpose, not for private entities, adding that the consent clause should be restored.
The SAD, which has the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as its alliance partner in Punjab, passed a resolution saying that apart from compensation on market rates, farmers should also get displacement allowance.
The meeting was also attended by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, besides other senior SAD leaders, including party secretary general Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Rajya Sabha MPs Balwinder Singh Bhunder and Naresh Gujral, and Lok Sabha MPs Prem Singh Chandumajra and Sher Singh Ghubaya.
The party's floor strategy on the bill will be decided by members of the SAD parliamentary board.
The SAD's move comes after another NDA ally, the Shiv Sena, decided to oppose the bill on the floor of the House, terming it 'draconian'. The Shiv Sena said it would not commit the sin of 'hurting' the interests of farmers at the cost of staying in power.
"The government has shocked everyone by bringing in the ordinance. We will oppose the bill at any cost," the Shiv Sena said in an editorial of the party mouthpiece Saamana.
Although the BJP-led government has absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, the opposition parties, including the Left and the Trinamool Congress, have moved a statutory resolution asking the House to disapprove of the proposed legislation. The Union government has already introduced a bill to replace the insurance ordinance in the Lok Sabha; it is expected to come up for discussion on Wednesday.
What SAD wants
* The government should have no role in acquiring land for private entities
* The Land Acquisition Act-2013 and the land bill should have 'foolproof safeguards' to compensate farmers with adequate actual market value of the land to be acquired
* Land should not be acquired without the express consent of a majority of the farmers/landowners
* Farmers/owners whose land is acquired should be given market rate plus displacement allowance or should be made partners in the proposed project through a land pooling policy
* States should be given free hand for fixing market price of the land to be acquired; that price should be accepted for all acquisitions whether being done for the state government or the Centre
* Multi-cropped land should be acquired only as a last resort
* Farmers should not be denied the right to approach the court for redressal of grievances.