Land bill, MNREGA, religious freedom: Highlights of Modi's speech

  • Agencies, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 28, 2015 01:01 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi touched upon a range of burning issues in his speech in Lok Sabha on Friday, as he tried to quell growing apprehension over a contentious land bill and religious tolerance.

He took a dig at the Congress, highlighting the apparent failure of the grand old party's flagship rural job scheme.

During his more than 70-minute speech, he dwelt upon black money, corruption and coal block allocations as well, besides steps like empowerment of states to strengthen federalism, cleanliness drive and Jan Dhan as part of good governance.

Here are the three key points of his speech.

Land bill

Modi expressed readiness to make changes in a controversial land acquisition ordinance, reaching out to the Opposition on an issue seen as the first major test of his pro-industry credentials.

"We should not have ego that there can be nothing better than what we did. When you passed the Land Act (in 2013), we stood shoulder to shoulder with you. We knew that you want to take political mileage out of it. Still we stood by you."

Modi, who was replying to a debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President's address, said his government wanted to make changes in the Land Act passed during the UPA tenure because all the chief ministers had said it was against farmers' interest and hampered development and infrastructure creation.

"...When our government was formed, CMs of all parties said in one voice: Please think about farmers, they want irrigation and infrastructure. You made such a law which is against farmers' interest.

"Are we so arrogant that we will ignore the voice of CMs in a federal structure? Can we ignore farmers interest? Is it not our responsibility to correct the mistake, if any? Whatever you have done, we are not rejecting it. Do not weigh this in the balance of politics," he said.

Modi said defence forces officials had told him that the previous law was coming in the way of development of military and nuclear infrastructure.

The PM asked, "If a mistake has been made, should we not correct?

The land ordinance issued in December exempts projects in defence, rural electrification, rural housing and industrial corridors from the provisions of a law enacted by the UPA government that required the consent of 80% of affected landowners for any acquisition.

It also ended the need for companies to conduct a social impact study for such projects that are seen as imperative to create jobs for some 10 million people who enter the workforce every year.

The ordinance needs the approval of both Houses of Parliament to become law. It will lapse if Parliament does not ratify it this budget session. The BJP is dependent on the Congress to pass bills in the Rajya Sabha, where it does not have the required numbers.

Modi's readiness to accommodate changes came in the wake of heavy resistance from the Opposition as well some of his allies to the land ordinance seen by the industry as business-friendly.

Religious tolerance

The Prime Minister, who has drawn flak for his silence on controversial communal and divisive remarks by some BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders, said the nation has to work collectively for progress.

Breaking his silence in Parliament, Modi denounced communalism and asserted that his government stood for unity wherein all religions prosper within the framework of the Constitution.

"My government's only religion is 'India first', my government's only religious book is 'Indian Constitution', our only devotion is 'Bharat Bhakti' and our only prayer is 'welfare of all'," he said.

He asserted that as the Prime Minister, it was his "responsibility" not to allow "anaap shanap (ridiculous)" comments in the name of religion.

"Nobody has the right to discriminate on the basis of religion... "No one has the right to take law into his hands," the Prime Minister said.

"Communalism for political reasons has destroyed the country. Hearts have been broken."

"This nation is full of diversity. We are for unity in diversity, not disunity. All religions should flourish. It is the uniqueness of India because of its Constitution," he said.

NREGA and Congress

Responding to criticism that he was mostly talking about small things, Modi said he believes that "small things are the root cause of big problems".

He took a dig at the Opposition over rumours that MNREGA scheme was being stopped.

"You may say that I do not have wisdom in some areas... But at least I do have some political wisdom...How can I shut down this scheme? ... MNREGA is a living example of your failures," he said, taking a dig at the Congress.

Asserting that MNREGA will continue with "honour and dignity", he said he "will keep beating the drums that you formulated for the poor (the scheme) to force them to continue to dig holes in the ground even after 60 years of independence. You have done good thing by leaving your footprints which people should know."

Modi said he does not wish to claim that whatever has been done was done only in the last nine months, since his government came to power. He said he was ready to give credit to previous governments where due.

"We do not believe that the country was born in 1947, it has been there for thousands of years. Ideologies come and go. Governments come and go. Nations are built from their philosophies. India's basic ideology is the welfare of all," he said.

Video: MNREGA will exist, says Modi

also read

PM reaches out to Opposition, ready to make changes in land bill
Show comments