States want freedom to frame their own land acquisition laws

Prime Minister to factor in suggestions of Chief Ministers

Updated - November 16, 2021 05:23 pm IST

Published - July 16, 2015 03:41 am IST - New Delhi:

It was a government in retreat on Wednesday, as the Centre agreed to consider a demand from the States that they be allowed the flexibility to frame their own laws for land acquisitions or continue to look for a consensus on The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Second Ordinance, 2015.

Two opinions

Briefing journalists on the consultations, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said: “One set of Chief Ministers suggested the Centre try to evolve consensus on the Land Bill…though States don’t want to wait indefinitely for the consensus…another was that we leave it to the States to frame legislations for land acquisition which the Centre can approve so that their development plans don’t get held up.”

Earlier, in his concluding remarks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured the Chief Ministers that their suggestions would be factored in by the Centre in its final decision on the Land Bill.

This is what emerged from the second meeting of the NITI Aayog’s Governing Council chaired by the Prime Minister even though half of the 16 CMs who came were from BJP-ruled States, while another two were from Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, ruled by NDA allies, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the People’s Democratic Party.

Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal stressed that land should not be acquired without the consent of owners, that the Social Impact Assessment clause should apply to all acquisitions and takeover, whether for State or Central projects, should be left to State governments.

Bihar’s Nitish Kumar (JD-United), Tripura’s Manik Sarkar (CPI-M) and Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal (Aam Aadmi Party) were all opposed to the Bill in its present form.

Absence of many CMs annoys government

Of those who boycotted the NITI Aayog’s Governing Council chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, nine were Chief Ministers of Congress ruled States, all implacably resisting the government-sponsored amendments to the 2013 Act. Uttar Pradesh’s Akhilesh Yadav didn’t attend, sources said, because his Samajwadi Party felt there was no need for such a meeting since the Bill is being examined by a joint parliamentary committee.

Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Odisha — Jayalalithaa, Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik – all opposing the Bill in different degrees — were absent because of prior commitments.

Later BJD MP – and a member of the joint committee on the Land Bill that will meet on Thursday — Bhartuhari Mahtab told The Hindu: “Today’s [Wednesday’s] meeting makes t clear the government is trying to find a way out, talking of consensus. If that’s the case, then why has the Modi government repeatedly passed ordinances and set up a joint committee?”

Clearly, the fact that so many Chief Ministers did a no-show annoyed the government, with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley remarking, “Those who chose to boycott the meeting must introspect if not attending the meeting is in the spirit of cooperative federalism. They could have come and expressed their alternative opinions.”

Centre’s plan Meanwhile, The Hindu has learnt that the government is considering sitting it out till the Bihar elections are over. “The government’s priority is to ensure the passage of the GST Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament so that the new tax can be rolled out by the deadline of April 1, 2016 and, therefore, it may go slow on the Land Bill,” a top government source said.

Adding to the government’s woes was Gandhian Anna Hazare’s announcement on Wednesday that he would go on an indefinite hunger strike at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi on October 2 over the Land Bill.

"Rural progress hit"

In his opening remarks at the NITI Aayog meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated that the political deadlock over land acquisition was seriously impacting rural development and recalled that Chief Ministers had always felt that development policies at the Centre should be framed in consultation with States, according to an official release.

At the meeting, Mr. Modi also said that after the formation of his Government, several States had raised concerns about the 2013 Act. The Ordinance, he said, was promulgated in response to the development concerns of the States, and also to ensure that farmers continued to receive their legitimate due.

The Prime Minister appealed to everyone that political considerations should not come in the way of a solution that would facilitate development of the rural areas, and greater prosperity for the farmers. He said the matter was now before the Parliamentary Standing Committee, and therefore, ahead of the upcoming Parliament session, it was appropriate that the suggestions of States be listened to, once again.

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