Opposition hold its ground on Land Bill

Early in the morning, the Government circulated nine official amendments in a bid to blunt the opposition

Updated - November 16, 2021 05:14 pm IST

Published - March 10, 2015 05:50 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia speaks during a discussion on Land Bill in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia speaks during a discussion on Land Bill in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

Hours after the Government circulated the official amendments to the contentious land acquisition bill, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday claimed to have bridged the differences with its allies though most Opposition parties held their ground as the marathon discussion in the Lok Sabha headed for a vote in the evening.

While the Lok Janshakti Party extended support to the Bill on the floor of the House in the wake of the amendments, Swabhimani Paksha's lone member Raju Shetti reiterated his opposition despite the BJP's claims to the contrary. Earlier in the day, the BJP had convened a meeting with all its allies – big and small – to iron out the differences within the NDA on the draft legislation.

Early in the morning, the Government circulated nine official amendments in a bid to blunt the opposition – within and outside the NDA ­­ 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. Former Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, under whose watch the 2013 Act was enacted, said the official amendments do not remedy the situation created by the Land Acquisition Ordinance by which a class of projects were created and then exempted from the various safeguards including SIA and review by expert group.

“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'. However, according to Mr. Ramesh, this amendment is “misleading, superficial and arbitrary'' as the 2013 law had provided mandatory employment to a wide range of landless people whose livelihood is affected; and not just farm labourers.

Another amendment 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.

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