Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday mounted a strong defence of the government’s land acquisition ordinance, accusing the Opposition of trying to make industry and infrastructure “bad words”. He also termed the existing law a “defective piece of legislation” that goes “against India’s national security interest”.
“A propaganda has been created that the bill is anti-farmer and pro-corporate sector. I appeal to you (Congress and other opposition parties) with folded hands… Don’t create environment in the country in which infrastructure and industry become bad words,”Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha.
Calling the UPA government’s land law a “defective piece of legislation”, he said though the Congress-led government had termed defence and security as urgent matters, it had “forgotten” to exempt such projects from the social impact assessment and consent clause.
“It was a defective piece of legislation against India’s security interests… Signatures of 70% of the villagers (whose land is being acquired) would be needed… So, the information (on the project) will be revealed and it will also reach Pakistan,” Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha, intervening on the motion of thanks on the President’s address.
Puncturing the Congress offensive against the ordinance, Jaitleycited a letter written in 2012 by former commerce minister Anand Sharma to then PM Manmohan Singh. Sharma had referred to “serious concerns” raised by the industry about the land act.
Jaitley said defence minister Manohar Parrikar could brief Singh and former defence minister AK Antony on projects being held up due to the old law.
Jaitley also took a dig at alliance partner Shiv Sena whose leaders had spoken against certain provisions of the ordinance. “You are more nationalist than us. Think about how this (UPA law) plays with nationalism,” Jaitley said pointing to Sena member Sanjay Raut.
Responding to criticism from the Left parties, Jaitley wondered why West Bengal and Kerala were the only big states in the country that suffered revenue deficit.
Hitting out at criticism that the ordinance was anti-farmer, Jaitleypointed out that rural infrastructure, including irrigation, was also in the exempted category in the ordinance, which seeks to remove the consent clause for acquiring land under five categories — defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects, including public private partnership projects, where the Centre owns the land. The UPA had put 13 areas in the exempted list, the NDA added five more, the minister said.