Rural development minister Chaudhary Birender Singh on Friday dismissed suggestions that he was unhappy with the ordinance on Land Acquisition Act that paved the way for removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas and claimed some of the Congress ruled states had also sought changes in the law.
Strongly defending the ordinance, he asserted that farmers' interests have been protected as "none of the clauses relating to compensation, relief and rehabilitation have been removed".
Asked why he was not present when three Union ministers went to President Mukherjee to explain the need for bringing the ordinance, Singh quipped, "Efforts were made to trace me but I could not be contacted. If the President has consulted one or two ministers, naturally they will be there."
There were media reports claiming that Singh, who hails from farmer-dominated Haryana and defected to BJP from Congress ahead of the state assembly polls, was upset over the dilution of law passed during the UPA regime.
"If I am angry, then I do not have to be in the Cabinet. Whatever I have done, I have ensured that farmers' interests are protected.
"None of the clauses relating to compensation, relief and rehabilitation have been removed," the Union minister asserted at a New Year press conference highlighting achievements of his ministry.
Singh said that most of the states including some Congress-ruled ones like Kerala, Karnataka and Assam wanted changes in clauses related to consent and social impact assessment process as they were finding it very difficult to acquire land for pushing infrastructure and other development projects on the ground.
Responding to questions about the amendments being dubbed as anti-farmer, the Union Minister said that the states have the discretion to act or not on section 10-A, which has been added to the legislation keeping in the mind development needs of the society.
"If some state thinks that only they are concerned about farmers, then they should not implement it," Singh said, referring to the section which has been amended to expand the list of projects that would not require social impact assessment and prior consent of affected families.
He also denied any industry pressure on him to bring amendments in the land law saying, "I may not be the favourite of industry people. So nobody came to me."
Claiming that the Act passed during the UPA regime had 60 mistakes and needed to be corrected, Singh, who is the Union minister for rural development, panchayati raj and drinking water and sanitation, alleged that the UPA government passed it in a hurry to "please" Rahul Gandhi.
"They committed so many mistakes to please Rahul ji. Now we are suffering," he said.