Ahead of the voting on the contentious land acquisition bill in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the Government circulated nine official amendments in a bid to blunt the Opposition to the proposed changes in the 2013 Act. While taking on board some suggestions of the Opposition, the Government has not yielded on the issues of Social Impact Assessment (SIA) and consent clause that were made necessary for acquiring land in the 2013 Act.
The Opposition was quick to bill the official amendments as a “clever halfmeasure” that still does not restore the heart and soul of the 2013 Act. “The SIA and consent clause are the heart and soul of the 2013 land acquisition act,” said N. K. Premachandran of the Revolutionary Socialist Party.
“The amendment to allow hearing of aggrieved party at the district level does not compensate for the consent clause that was built into the Act to ensure against forcible acquisition.” One major Opposition suggestion that has been accepted as an official amendment pertains to providing compulsory employment to at least one member of an affected family of a ‘farm labourer.’ Another pertains to dropping the social infrastructure from the five categories of land use that were exempted from the consent clause.
Under social infrastructure, the Government had earlier proposed to acquire land for private schools and hospitals which was stiffly objected to by the Opposition; pointing out that many such existing institutions had become moneyspinning enterprises.