Ruckus in Parliament over land bill, Jaitley defends NDA's ordinance route

  • HT Correspondent and Agencies, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 24, 2015 12:26 IST

Opposition parties on Tuesday remained adamant on their stance over the land acquisition bill and created a ruckus in Parliament even as the government said it is well within its right to issue ordinances.

The Narendra Modi government will introduce the land acquisition amendment bill 2015 to replace the ordinance in Lok Sabha on Tuesday. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance has a commanding majority in Lok Sabha, but is in a minority in Rajya Sabha where it needs the support of opposition parties to pass laws.

In the Upper House, finance minister Arun Jaitley defended the government's decision to bring in ordinances and invoked the Jawaharlal Nehru government saying it had introduced 77 ordinances.

"Allegations that ordinances are bypassing Parliament is not a valid argument," Jaitley said.

"The Opposition can't pre-empt discussion on the land bill in Lok Sabha," he said while listing ordinances passed by the previous UPA government.

Jaitley added that the government is within its rights to take the ordinance route.

"You expect Parliament to rubber stamp your ordinances, you don't send anything to standing committee," Congress leader Anand Sharma hit back at Jaitley.

The Congress has already given a notice for suspension of question hour in the Upper House to discuss the ordinance and its leader Kamal Nath told ANI that his party will oppose the bill strongly.

In Lok Sabha, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan rejected Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia's adjournment motion over land acquisition bill.

The Opposition has remained firm that the ordinance, along with five more, would not be allowed to go through Parliament. These ordinances would expire on March 20, if not passed during this budget session.

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 will replace the ordinance promulgated by the government in December last year, which had brought changes in the earlier bill passed in 2013 by the UPA government.

The government had promulgated the ordinance making significant changes in the land act including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas -- industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.

The prime objection to the land acquisition ordinance has been that it removed the need for written consent from 70% of landowners for joint public-private projects.

The ruling BJP also has its hands full after rights activist Anna Hazare on Monday started a protest against the "anti-farmer" land law.

He got support from old associates Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, the chief minister of Delhi and his deputy whose Aam Aadmi Party had routed the BJP in the national capital's assembly polls. They will join Hazare in his protest on Tuesday.

"This is land grab by the government ... This is what the British used to do. To cater to industrialists, how can you betray farmers?" Hazare said before his dharna at Jantar Mantar.

To make matters worse, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) has also raised objection to the ordinance, seeing in it a reason for the BJP’s drubbing in Delhi.

Ways around

Given the heat generated by the land law before the NDA government's presents its first full-year budget on February 28, fear mounted within the BJP of a possible Parliament washout in the face of the Opposition's belligerent stand.

Barring Prime Minister Modi, top BJP leaders closeted on Monday evening to see if the bill to be place before Lok Sabha could be further refined to pacify the protesters.

There were hints that the government might consider the demands when Parliament debates the bill.

"We discussed all issues, including land acquisition. We discussed issues farmers have raised. Twenty-seven farmer organisations have met home minister Rajnath Singh," Union minister Ananth Kumar said.

"We will consider what is on farmers' minds. The Prime Minister has said at an all-party meet we will welcome suggestions."

The government tried its hand to bring the Opposition on board as PM Modi said dialogue and discussion were an essential part of democracy and hoped for a positive outcome of the budget session.

He walked up to the opposition benches with folded hands after entering Lok Sabha on Monday morning — a first by the Prime Minister in almost nine months since taking charge.

Meanwhile, setting in motion the process of replacing ordinances relating coal mines, e-rickshaws and FDI in insurance with fresh bills, the government has listed for the withdrawal of old bills in Rajya Sabha.

Union ministers Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari and Piyush Goyal will move for withdrawal of these bills.

The government is racing against time to convert the six ordinances into bills in the first part of the Budget session, which comes to an end on March 20.

The government will also introduce a bill in Lok Sabha to amend the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, which will replace the ordinance promulgated on the issue recently.

(With PTI inputs)

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