Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to farmers on Sunday through his monthly radio address, “Mann ki Baat”, asking them to support the contentious land acquisition bill as he accused the Opposition of spreading rumours and false propaganda.
The legislation has been cleared by the Lok Sabha but has run into a wall of protest from a united Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, slowing down Modi’s economic reform agenda meant to overcome longstanding barriers to growth in India.
The Prime Minister said the new bill favoured farmers and not industry, as he touched upon several provisions, including the consent clause for public-private partnership (PPP) schemes, social impact assessment and acquisition of land for industrial corridors.
“The Land Acquisition Act, 2013, was passed in a hurry. We too supported the (UPA) government then but soon realised that it was not in the interest of the farmers and decided to remove its shortcomings,” he said.
The government passed an executive order in December to make it easier to buy land, but it needs the upper House, where the NDA is in a minority, to ratify the bill before the end of this parliamentary session in May as the order lapses on April 5.
Modi said the Opposition was running a misinformation campaign as a conspiracy to keep farmers poor and backward and said the new law will ensure that they get full remittance for their land, because the provision, which provided for compensation four times the market value, had not been touched.
He also spoke about the losses farmers have suffered because of unseasonable rain while saying he had ordered officials to take stock of the situation and his government would do all it can to help the agriculturists in distress.
“A lie is being spread that the compensation under the new bill would get reduced. Let me assure you I would never commit such a sin,” he said on the 30-minute radio show.
Modi said while the consent clause will not apply in case of a PPP project, the landowner will get full compensation.
This was the sixth edition of “Mann ki Baat” through which the Prime Minister aims to get his message across to two thirds of the country’s 1.2 billion people who listen regularly to the radio.
The Congress hit back at Modi, saying the government’s move to bring changes to the bill was a smokescreen to benefit industrialists and he was “lying” on the show.
“Modi has claimed in his Mann ki Baat today that he has brought amendments to 13 laws. He has not done anyone a favour,” former environment minister Jairam Ramesh said at a press conference. “His Mann ki Baat was full of lies. He has tried to spread myth.”
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said Modi had given false assurances to the farmers in his radio address and was attempting to justify the bill, which is meant to benefit only the capitalists.