Land bill expected to raise storm in Lok Sabha, govt reaches out to Oppn

  • HT Correspondent and Agencies, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 09, 2015 10:36 IST

Under fire over the land bill, the government will meet opposition leaders on Monday before it comes up for consideration and passage in Lok Sabha. The Centre is also working on further amendments to dilute some provisions of the ordinance.

Parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu, rural development minister Birender Singh and finance minister Arun Jaitley are expected to meet senior opposition leaders on Monday to negotiate on the contentious land law.

Jaitley, Naidu and Singh are said to have met on Sunday and discussed various dimensions of the issue.

Eight hours have been allotted for the discussion on the controversial amendment bill. Sources in Parliament said the discussions will begin on Monday in Lok Sabha and may continue on Tuesday as well.

Naidu spoke to CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, a key Opposition strategist against the land bill, on Sunday evening. Yechury reportedly asked for concrete proposals from the government to discuss with the party and asked Naidu to call an all-party meet.

Congress, the principal opposition party, had upped the ante on the land acquisition ordinance demanding a complete withdrawal of the new amendments.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh told HT, "There is no possibility of any compromise. We want a kanoon-wapsi. The new law must be revoked in its entirety."

Rajya Sabha this week is set to see some confrontation over the Insurance Laws (amendment) Bill that aims to hike foreign investment in the sector to 49% from the current 26%.

Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal, which has 7 MPs in the Upper House, has already submitted a list of demands to the NDA leadership.

"Those who lose land must be made partners in the economic projects, which would come up in the acquired land. We demanded more clarity on the definition of 'national security' in respect of land acquisition," said BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab.

The government also circulated an amendment to the land bill on Saturday which deletes the definition of "private entities" in the bill thereby expanding the scope of acquisition for different private projects.

A private entity is an entity other than a government entity, and could include a proprietorship, partnership, company, corporation, non-profit organisation, or other entity under any other law. On Sunday, it also indicated to the opposition that it would move an official amendment replacing the term "private entity" with "private enterprise".

The move seeks to restrict those in the private sector who plan to acquire land. There were worries that a private individual may pass off as a "private entity" to acquire land, for say a college or an institution.

While the UPA's act of 2013 stated that land can be acquired for private companies, the NDA ordinance and the subsequent bill introduced on February 26 in Lok Sabha replaced the term 'private company' with private entity.

'Autocratic govt'

Congress MP Ramesh attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said he was trying to send a signal to the corporate world that "big bang reforms" were being carried out by him on the advise of US-based economists.

Ramesh, a key architect of the land acquisition act enacted by the previous UPA government, also slammed Modi for undertaking foreign trip when Parliament is in session and accused him of "deliberately" showing "disrespect" to democratic institutions.

In an interview to PTI, Ramesh, a former rural development minister, contested the BJP's stand that the land acquisition law enacted during the Congress-led UPA rule was not farmer-friendly.

He said the 2013 law was done in a manner "most democratic, most consultative and most participative" while the BJP promulgated an ordinance, bringing changes "in an autocratic, completely high-handed and unilateral manner."

"Even the rural development minister was kept in the dark. Only 2 hours to draft the ordinance and get Cabinet approval. There was no discussion," he claimed.

Ramesh said the structure of the law was based on four pillars -- compensation and Rehabilitation and Resettlement, Consent of land owners and Social Impact Assessment.

Accusing the government of diluting the land acquisition act by destroying two key pillars of the 'farmer-friendly law' -- the consent clause and the Social Impact Assessment, Ramesh said, "This is to show a signal to the market and the corporate sector that they are doing big bang economic reforms."

"The two pillars -- consent and SIA -- have been completely demolished. The structure will collapse," he said.

"... and all their economic advisors -- Arvind Panagariya, Arvind Subramanian -- all of them have been saying that this land acquisition law should be changed. This is a big lobby. They have been writing for a long... They have come from the US and they will go back to the US," he said.

Criticising PM Modi for undertaking foreign tour when Parliament is in session, Ramesh said, "It is deliberate... He is sending a signal to Parliament... that you can do whatever you want but I will do whatever I want... that is the signal he is sending. He travels only during Parliament Session."

Modi is leaving on March 10 on a three-nation visit — Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka.

(With PTI inputs)

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