In deference to the near unanimity among political parties against forcible land acquisition, the Centre on Tuesday assured the Lok Sabha that the interest of farmers would be protected and a comprehensive legislation formulated.
Responding to the 55-minute discussion on the issue of the farmers' agitation at Aligarh and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, which was taken up after question hour was suspended, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the Centre would address the issues relating to land acquisition highlighted by the members.
The government was keen on ensuring that “farmers are not disturbed and their interests are not jeopardised, because they have to play the most positive role in … ensuring food security.”
A comprehensive bill on land acquisition and other aspects was being considered by the Group of Ministers headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Mr. Mukherjee said. The government wanted to introduce the bill at the earliest.
As for the farmers' agitation and police firing in Uttar Pradesh, he said facts had to be ascertained from the State government. But an amicable solution appeared to be in sight as talks were under way. Home Minister P. Chidambaram was in touch with the State government.
Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh opened the attack on the Mayawati government, alleging that no First Information Report had been filed so far, though at least four farmers were killed in the police firing when the country was celebrating Independence Day.
Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav highlighted the gamut of problems faced by farmers, including the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) issue.
Rajnath Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Jayant Chaudhary of the Rashtriya Lok Dal said the farmers were being coerced into signing on the dotted lines. They were not being paid due compensation, CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia alleged.
The former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, and Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal demanded that cases of murder be filed against officers who had ordered the firing on farmers. Jagdambika Pal of the Congress said the compensation being paid for lands was a pittance.
Sudip Bandopadhyay of the Trinamool Congress, M. Thambidurai of the AIADMK and Anant Geete of the Shiv Sena criticised the manner in which farmers' lands were being acquired forcibly by what they described as “colonisers.”
The general refrain was that the government should not involve itself in buying land from farmers at a throw-away price and then passing it on to developers who sold each square foot for rates up to Rs.30,000. The members demanded that the government stop relying on the law formulated in 1894 and come up with a new legislation for land acquisition.
They all spoke out against the SEZ concept, saying that its contribution was not positive. The objective, they said, should be to protect the interest of farmers and not jeopardise farm production.
Despite the commonality of opinion, the discussion brought out the political tug of war in some States: the Telugu Desam Party accused the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh of forcibly acquiring 3 lakh acres and converting 50,000 farmers into labourers; the Shiv Sena opposed the Reliance SEZ in Maharashtra; and the AIADMK opposed the land acquisition being done by the DMK government for expansion of the Chennai airport.
Keywords: Aligarh firing