In a shift of stand, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, on Wednesday, opposed amendments in the Land Acquisition Bill, citing resistance from farmers.
The move has come at a time when almost all opposition parties in Tamil Nadu, including the DMK, stand opposed to the Bill and had termed the amendments “anti-farmer”.
With 11 MPs in the Rajya Sabha, the support of the AIADMK is crucial for the BJP-led Centre to pass the legislation in the Upper House. The party had supported the Bill in the Lok Sabha.
In her letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which she requested be taken on record at the second meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog held in New Delhi, Ms. Jayalalithaa said farmers in Tamil Nadu were strongly opposed to the provisions, which enabled State governments to exempt specified projects from the application of Chapter III of the Act.
“Hence, these provisions in the Amendment Bill are unacceptable to the Government of Tamil Nadu. We believe that the present Amendments take away important safeguards that farmers and agriculture require. Hence, I urge the Government of India not to press these amendments,” she said. When the UPA government introduced the original Bill to replace the colonial Land Acquisition Act, the State government opposed it based on the twin pillars of need to preserve State autonomy and protect the interests of the farmers.
She said a key feature of the Amendment Bill was the introduction of Section 10A. The Section lists projects under five heads, including infrastructure projects in PPP mode where land continued to vest with the government, which the State has powers to exempt from Social Impact Assessment, special provisions for safeguarding food security and obtaining consent from a fixed percentage of affected families.
Ms. Jayalalithaa said the AIADMK backed the Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha under her instructions since the Centre had accepted her suggestion of excluding acquisition for private hospitals and educational institutions from the purview of the Amendment.
BJP slams stand
Reacting to Ms. Jayalalithaa’s opposition, State BJP president, Tamilisai Soundararajan, said the Chief Minister’s stand was “inconsistent with facts.”
“All through, Tamil Nadu had supported the Amendments. Even when DMK chief M. Karunanidhi criticised her support for the Bill, she gave detailed explanations for taking such a stand. The BJP has maintained that this Amendment was pro-farmer,” she said. While terming the State government’s move as a “good decision”, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president, E.V.K.S. Elangovan, said it also exposed the “inconsistencies” in the functioning of the AIADMK regime.