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Centre may withdraw ‘anti-farmer’ land acquisition bill

PUBLISHED ON JUL 18, 2016 09:00 AM IST

NEW DELHI: The government is frantically trying to pass India’s biggest financial reform in decades, the goods and services tax, but is caught in a bind over another legislation, the land acquisition bill.

The contentious bill, brought first through an ordinance in December 2014, sought to replace an UPA-era law. But it ran into trouble over provisions termed as “anti-farmer” by parties both in Opposition and ruling camp. The government’s inability to build a consensus is seen as a setback for its reforms agenda as Rs 50,000 crore-worth projects are stalled.

BJP sources now indicate the government may withdraw the bill lying before Parliament after finding no headway in the last 18 months. The Centre is also mulling the option of bringing a fresh bill to only give additional benefits to farmers but take back proposals dubbed “pro-industry.”

The government had issued three ordinances during this period as a desperate measure to alter the earlier law. The ordinance changed 15 provisions of the UPA act, including doing away with the consent clause and social impact assessment for acquiring land. These provisions were seen as too difficult for industrial development and land acquisition.

But ahead of Bihar elections in 2015, PM Modi announced the government won’t renew the ordinance. The bill went to a joint committee of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha where it still awaiting consensus.

The Congress took the amendments as a prestige battle and other parties upped their ante against the proposed changes. BJP’s own allies, Shiv Sena and Akali Dal, and the RSS’ farmer and trade union arms were also unconvinced.

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