Braving a record number of adjournments on the issue of coal scam and the demand for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s resignation, the government succeeded in getting the crucial Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2013, passed in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
Apart from ratification of the Bill by a division of 131 votes in favour of and 10 against it, all four government amendments were accepted, necessitating the Bill to be reverted to the Lok Sabha for its consideration. The Lower House passed the Bill last week. The floor managers of the government really moved heaven and earth in ending the impasse arising from the clash between the BJP and the Left parties, aided by the JD(U) and the Samajwadi Party, over precedence in raising their respective issues that almost stalled the Land Bill from being taken up.
The House had to bear with 10 adjournments for Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath to actually work a a way out and pacify the two warring sides, keen on upstaging each other, Prof. Kurien assured both Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) and Shivanand Tiwari of the JD (U) that their notices on the allegations levelled against the Gujarat Chief Minister by suspended IPS officer D.G. Vanzara would be considered by Chairman Hamid Ansari on Thursday.
Thereafter, an assurance by the government that Coal Minister Shri Prakash Jaiswal would provide the clarifications sought by members on the missing files relating to coal blocks allocation underlined the fact that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s dinner diplomacy had paid off.
The Prime Minister invited senior BJP leaders including L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley to placate them, after the party, dissatisfied with his statement on Tuesday, threatened to stall Parliament’s proceedings.
Mr. Jaitley demanded that the government admit that the files had gone missing and clarify whether there was an attempt by the CBI higher-ups to scuttle the demand made by an officer to conduct an oral examination of the Prime Minister in the aftermath of the files going missing.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh moved the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill, 2013, as passed by the Lok Sabha, for consideration after a delay of about three and half anxious hours for the government.
Here again the government, lacking the numbers, struck a compromise with some of the Opposition parties for ensuring smooth passage of the Bill, diluting some of the provisions.
Mr. Ramesh moved four amendments, requiring that the Bill be sent back to the Lok Sabha for the approval of the amendments.
According to the amendments, the proposed law would not apply to irrigation projects where environmental impact assessment is required under the provision of any other law already in force.
With regard to land acquisition initiated under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which the present Bill seeks to replace, only the compensation part would be determined as provided in the proposed law. The amendment drops the proposals on rehabilitation and resettlement.
In case an award had been made, the provisions of compensation under the new law would be applicable with respect to only those beneficiaries in whose account the money had not been deposited. The Lok Sabha had approved the provision that all those who had not accepted the award would benefit.
The Bill seeks to make consent of gram panchayats mandatory for acquisition of land to be made at four times the market rate, besides outlining provisions for rehabilitation and resettlement.
Replying to the debate, Mr. Ramesh denied the charge the Bill was an electoral bet, stressing that the move to replace the 1894 law was more than seven years old and introduced in the Lok Sabha in September 2011.