The Union Cabinet has recommended re-promulgation of the controversial land acquisition ordinance for the third time in five months on Saturday.
The decision has immediately drawn a sharp response from the Congress and the CPI (M), who along with other Opposition parties, have been stalling the Bill’s passage in the Rajya Sabha.
Opposition leaders stressed that it was improper to recommend re-promulgation of the ordinance as a 30-member Joint Committee of Parliament was currently deliberating on changes sought to be made in the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. While CPI (M) MP – and a member of the Joint Committee – Mohammad Salim said it was “improper” to push for re-promulgation during the pendency of the Committee, Congress communication chief Randeep Surjewala said: “It is an affront to Parliament that refused to put its stamp of approval [on the Bill].”
But the NDA government spokesperson and Union Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, announcing the decision, said the Cabinet had recommended re-promulgation of the ordinance “to ensure continuity” so that “farmers don’t face hardships on compensation” as, otherwise, it would have lapsed on June 4.
The Cabinet’s recommendation will now be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee — who had in January expressed his disapproval of the ordinance route publicly and privately — for his approval. However, it appears unlikely that Mr. Mukherjee will withhold his approval.
Meanwhile, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Bill held its first meeting on Friday with some Opposition MPs raising questions on the rationale of the government’s proposed changes. Expressing dissatisfaction over the government’s arguments in favour of the Bill, the members had demanded a “composite” inter-ministerial reply on the issue.
The meeting, however, saw the members agreeing to certain ground rules: all stakeholders would be spoken to – for this purpose, an advertisement has been placed in the papers inviting suggestions by June 5. The Committee will also write to all Chief Secretaries so that the States’ viewpoints can be taken on board: last time, the BJP said some States had reservations about some of the Act’s provisions. If necessary, some of the Chief Secretaries may be invited to speak to the Committee. Once the second meeting takes place on June 8, the Committee will meet every week on Monday and Tuesday – if required for more than three hours at each sitting. On Friday, Secretary, Rural Development, also explained the government’s rationale for the changes.
Meanwhile, the Congress came out all guns blazing against the Cabinet decision; a statement from communications chief Randeep Surjewala, a briefing by former Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh (who had piloted the original Bill) and tweets from vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
“Modi ji in an amazing hurry to grab land from poor farmers at any cost. A 3rd attempt at pushing the anti farmer Land Ordinance!” tweeted Mr. Gandhi, following it up with a warning: “Congress Party will continue to fight for the rights of the kisan and mazdoor against this #suitbootkisarkar”.
The Lok Sabha has already passed the Bill — a diluted version of the UPA Act — but it is stuck in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP-led NDA does not have the requisite numbers.
The Opposition led by the Congress has attacked the Bill as anti-farmer as it has scrapped a crucial consent clause for a vast category of projects, including affordable housing and industrial corridors and done away with the social impact assessment.
The Cabinet decision, Mr. Surjewala said, was “a cruel breach of faith and travesty of justice with India's farming community”, adding that “the duplicity of PM Modi stands exposed. Only yesterday (Friday) he said his government is open to reviewing the anti-farmer land ordinance”.
Here are the six important facts you need to know about the Land Bill. Source: prsindia.org
|1||The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 seeks to Amend the Act of 2013 (LARR Act, 2013).|
|2||The Bill creates five special categories of land use: 1. defence, 2. rural infrastructure, 3. affordable housing, 4. industrial corridors, and 5. infrastructure projects including Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects where the central government owns the land|
|3||The Bill exempts the five categories from provisions of the LARR Act, 2013 which requires the consent of 80 per cent of land ownersto be obtained for private projects and that of 70 per cent of land owners for PPP projects.|
|4||The Bill allows exemption for projects in these five categories from requiring Social Impact Assessment be done to identify those affected and from the restrictions on the acquisition of irrigated multi-cropped land imposed by LARR Act 2013.|
|5||The Bill brings provisions for compensation, rehabilitation, and resettlement under other related Acts such as the National Highways Act and the Railways Act in consonance with the LARR Act.|
|6||The Bill changes acquisition of land for private companies mentioned in LARR Act, 2013 to acquisition for ‘private entities’. A private entity could include companies, corporations and nonprofit organisations.|
What does the Ordinance mean ?
Ordinance envisages projects in defence, rural housing and industrial corridors as exempt from seeking 80% approval from affected persons.
|Farmers' compensation will remain the same — four times the market rate for urban areas, and twice for rural areas.|
Private hospitals, educational institutions and hotels will be included under definition of public purpose, and exempt from SIA.
|13 statutes that were previously exempted from the rigours of compensation have now been included.|
The Ordinance aims to make land acquisition easier for industries, as delays in approvals have restricted growth in industry and infrastructure, according to stakeholders.
Multi-crop land can be acquired for five purposes without consent of affected families: national security, defence, rural infrastructure, industrial corridors and social infrastructure