The Union Cabinet on Saturday recommended re-promulgation of the controversial land acquisition ordinance for the third time, drawing a sharp rebuke from the opposition Congress which has been stalling the bill’s passage in the Rajya Sabha.
The Cabinet’s recommendation came just days before the ordinance was to lapse next week.
TV reports quoted government spokesperson and Union telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad as saying the Cabinet has recommended re-promulgation of ordinance “to ensure continuity” and so that “farmers don’t suffer”.
“The ordinance will ensure farmers don’t face hardships on compensation,” he was quoted as saying.
The recommendation of the Union Cabinet will be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee for its approval, officials said.
The bill – a watered down version of an earlier one introduced under the UPA regime -- has already been passed by the Lok Sabha but is stuck in the upper house where the BJP-led NDA does not have the requisite numbers.
The government, which had earlier promulgated the ordinance twice since December, has now referred it to a 30-member joint committee of Parliament.
The opposition led by the Congress has attacked the bill as anti-farmer as it has scrapped a crucial consent clause for a vast category of projects including affordable housing and industrial corridors.
The Congress on Saturday once again criticised the Cabinet decision saying “it is is a cruel breach of faith and travesty of justice with India's farming community”.
“The duplicity of PM Modi stands exposed. Only yesterday (Friday) he said that his Govt is open to reviewing the anti-farmer land ordinance,” Congress spokesperson RS Surjewala said in a series of tweets.
The first meeting of the joint committee on Friday saw a number of opposition members raising questions over the rationale of the government changing provisions of the 2013 land law.
Expressing dissatisfaction over the government’s arguments in favour of the bill, the members had demanded a “composite” inter-ministerial reply on the issue.
While the 2013 law required that the consent of 80% of land owners was obtained for private projects and that the consent of 70% of land owners be obtained for PPP projects, the present bill exempts the five categories from the purview of the act.
The 2013 act also required that a social impact assessment be conducted to identify affected families and calculate the social impact when land is acquired. This provision has been done away with.
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