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Land ordinance gets a burial

Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared on Sunday that the land acquisition ordinance would be allowed to lapse on Monday and not re-promulgated as his government had done thrice before.

A political setback to the National Democratic Alliance government, the lapsing of the ordinance was immediately claimed as a victory by the Congress. Party president Sonia Gandhi, in Patna for a rally, termed it “the victory of the farmers over a government that has worked against the interests of the farmers.”

The Prime Minister made the announcement during the course of his monthly radio broadcast to the nation — Mann ki Baat (Straight from the heart).

“Tomorrow [Monday], the Land Bill will lapse and I have agreed to it. The government will not re-promulgate the ordinance, but will include 13 points to reform the land acquisition law to benefit farmers,” he said. These 13 points, “meant to provide direct financial benefit to the farmers, are being brought under the rules effective from today [Sunday] so that farmers do not face financial loss,” he said.

The reference was to Acts such as the Highways Act and the Railways Act which would be tagged onto the Land Acquisition Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, 2013.

‘Open to suggestions’

The Prime Minister said “rumours” had been spread about the Land Acquisition Bill leading to a scare among farmers. “We do not want that ... The government is open to any suggestion in the interest of farmers,” he said.

The Congress and other Opposition parties had vehemently opposed the ordinance terming certain clauses in it, such as the removal of the necessity of a social impact assessment report while acquiring certain kinds of land, arbitrary and anti-farmer.

Despite efforts by the government to explain its position, the Opposition’s campaign appeared more effective, and the Centre decided to cut its losses before the Bihar polls.

Retorting to the Prime Minister’s comments, Ms. Gandhi said in Patna: “This is an anti-farmer government; they want to take land away from farmers and give it to a few of their rich industrialist friends. Today, that government had to concede to our agitation against the land ordinance.”

The All India Kisan Sabha also claimed victory, and said it would take out “victory rallies.”

BJP president Amit Shah “welcomed” the lapsing of the ordinance as a pro-farmer move. “This step is taken in favour of farmers. I welcome this and thank the Prime Minister,” Mr. Shah said.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley too termed it a step “entirely in the interest of farmers.” He added that the government would wait for the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee due in the Winter Session of Parliament.

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