Congress backs pro-farmer changes in NDA’s land bill

  • Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 08, 2015 08:11 IST

Amid its bitter battle against the BJP on the land bill, the Congress has actually offered support to two key amendments to the contentious legislation. The amendments are pro-farmer and were brought by the NDA government through its land ordinance in December 2014.

The principal opposition party, however, remain opposed to all other key provisions of the bill including the removal of the requirement of seeking the consent of affected families before acquisition for most projects.

In its note to the parliamentary joint panel on land bill, the congress “approved” the provision for mandatory employment for farm labour whose land has been acquired. The joint panel will submit its report to parliament on July 28.

It also wants the amendment that provides higher compensation in acquisition for national highways, metro rail, atomic energy projects, defense establishments and electricity related projects.

In the UPA’s land law, it offered enhanced compensation for certain purposes like setting up of industries. But kept land acquisition under 13 Central acts, which related to government projects, out of the purview of the law. This resulted in two categories of compensation. The NDA’s original ordinance last year abolished the two-tier system. Finance minister Arun Jaitley said it would allow a large section of famers and land losers to get enhanced compensation.

This is the first time the Congress has supported, albeit partially, some changes in the NDA’s land ordinance. The stand of the Congress also indicates an admission that there are scopes of improvement in its own law.

The proposal to create a special category of projects under section 10A that attracts exemption from the consent requirements, Social Impact Assessment and experts’ review, has also been opposed by the Congress in its note. It also opposed to widening the definition of “private entities”, expansion of industrial corridors and the provision that defaulting officials cane be prosecuted only after government sanction.

The Congress’ latest stand doesn’t brighten the prospect of the passage of the land bill as the party remains firmly committed to oppose all “pro-business” amendments. Last week, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi met e-entrepreneurs and told them he is not anti-industries but added that economic growth shouldn’t come at the cost of livelihood of poor and farmers.

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