New Delhi: In a major climbdown from its stated position, BJP appears to have agreed to restore key provisions of UPA’s land law including those related to consent and social impact assessment (SIA), informed sources said.
The sources said that members of ruling National Democratic Alliance moved amendments at the Monday’s meeting of the joint committee on land bill, seeking to bring back the consent clause and SIA.
The committee, headed by BJP’s S.S. Ahluwalia, has sought time till August 7 to submit its report on the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment Bill), 2015.
With the Bharatiya Janata Party having seemingly changed its position on the key bill, there is a possibility of the committee giving a consensus report and the government likely to recast the legislation.
The Congress and several other opposition parties had firmly objected to changes made in the land bill passed by the United Progressive Alliance government in 2013.
There was opposition to the bill from some Sangh outfits as also farmer organizations.
The Congress mounted a high-pitched attack on the Narendra Modi government on its new bill, alleging that it had made changes to the 2013 Act to benefit a few industrialists.
The National Democratic Alliance government brought ordinances but the bill has not been passed by parliament. The bill was earlier passed by the Lok Sabha but could not be taken up in Rajya Sabha where the government lacks majority.
BJP leaders had repeatedly said that the UPA’s land bill was against rural areas and they had made changes to the bill after suggestions from the states.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also convened a meeting with states on the bill last month which was boycotted by the Congress.
The 2013 Act required that the consent of 80 percent of land owners is obtained for private projects and that the consent of 70 percent of land owners be obtained for public private partnership (PPP) projects.
The bill of the NDA government exempted five categories – defense, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors, and infrastructure projects including PPP projects where the central government owns the land – from these provisions of the act.
While the 2013 act was applicable for the acquisition of land for private companies, the new bill proposed changed this to acquisition for “private entities” or an entity other than a government entity, and could include a proprietorship, partnership, company, corporation, non-profit organization, or other entity under any other law.
New Delhi: The Congress on Sunday promised to continue its fight on the land bill issue in the state assemblies, as party leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the NDA government, saying the “Make in India” campaign was actually “Take in India” as it has “no place for farmers and labourers”.
At the “Kisan Samman Rally” rally to mark the party’s “victory” on the land bill, Congress president Sonia Gandhi also mounted a strong attack on Modi, saying he was forced to “bow” on the land bill issue before the power of the “plough and hand”.
The Congress leaders highlighted issues concerning farmers, labourers and the common man at the well-attended rally at the Ramlila Maidan in central Delhi.
The Congress sought to put up a show of strength at the rally which highlighted Rahul Gandhi’s role in forcing the government to backtrack on the land bill.
But apparent factionalism in the Haryana Congress was evident as Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar faced waving of hands and some booing by partymen wearing pink turbans, who were seen as supporters of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
The rally came five months after the Congress held a rally on the land ordinance in April which also marked Rahul Gandhi’s arrival from a long sabbatical.
The Congress is seeking electoral revival after a string of reverses in assembly polls following its debacle in the Lok Sabha elections.
Speakers at the rally highlighted Rahul Gandhi’s role in taking the lead on the land bill issue.
In her hard-hitting speech, Sonia Gandhi charged the BJP-led government with failing on all fronts including price rise.
Sonia Gandhi said Modi has time only for his industrialist friends, and not for farmers and labourers.
“The Modi government, as is its habit, is indulging in just talking and making speeches. It is encouraging activities which take away attention of the people from the real issues. It wants to create such tension which will be a danger for the country’s future and national unity. It is the biggest challenge before us which we have to face unitedly,” Gandhi said.
The Congress chief said Modi overlooked the seriousness of the agitation against the “black” land ordinance, but “had to bow his head” when the “force of hand and plough combined together”.
The hand is the election symbol of the Congress and the plough is associated with the farming community.
The Modi government allowed its ordinance to lapse following stiff opposition from the Congress to changes in the 2013 Act on land acquisition which was passed during the United Progressive Alliance government.
The new land bill of the National Democratic Alliance government is being examined by a joint committee of parliament but the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has already made significant changes in its stance on the legislation by relenting on crucial clauses such as consent and social impact assessment.
Sonia Gandhi said the struggle against the land bill has not ended but “the battlefield has shifted to the states”.
“The prime minister has failed at the Centre (to change the land law) and now wants to bring the same (changes) through the states. If we are not alert, the struggle will go in vain and you will lose your land,” Sonia Gandhi said.
Rahul Gandhi said Modi only listens to “people in suit-boot” and Modi’s ‘Make in India’ does not have “place for labourers, farmers but for only those whom he meets and talks”.
“We don’t want such India. This is not ‘Make in India’. This is Modi’s ‘take in India’,” he said.
“On the one hand, they want to snatch your land, on the other your rights. In the end, you will get nothing. His two-three chosen friends will get it in the end.”
He also said the battle on land bill has shifted to state assemblies and Congress will fight it. He said fight over land bill was about not just about land but also heart, prestige and future of farmers.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accused the NDA government of trying to weaken the welfare programmes of the previous UPA government.
He said the Congress was able to stop the “conspiracy” of the Modi government on the land bill under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
He further added that the issue will need “more struggle”.
New Delhi: Rural Development Minister Birender Singh has said that the ruling NDA alliance has given a political answer to the Congress on the land bill by leaving it to states to make changes to the 2013 Act for acquiring land for industry, while Congress state governments, if they want, can let the consent clause in the law enacted by the previous UPA government remain.
He said he was sure that Congress state governments will work to change the consent law as the “Congress can’t afford that in states ruled by them, there is no development”.
Birender Singh, 69, accused the Congress of a U-turn on the land bill and said its stance on the legislation brought by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was guided by political considerations.
“Congress took a stand on political lines and not in the interest of county and the farmers. And our political answer is that the matter rests with states and they are competent to enact their own legislation on acquiring land because this is on the concurrent list. If Congress ruled states still want to see that the consent clause should remain, let them continue with that,” Singh told IANS in an interview.
“(Their) real face will come out (before the people). How how long will they be able to work by keeping the consent clause? I know you would see in the times to come that (on) this most contentious issue, they would be coming with legislation that it should be withdrawn,” he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced last month that the government will allow the ordinance on the land bill to lapse. The ordinance lapsed on August 31 and the the 2013 land Act has again come into force.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR Act), 2013 requires the consent of 80 percent of land owners for private projects and the consent of 70 percent of land owners for public private partnership projects. It also provides for assessing the social impact of acquisition.
The Modi government, in its new land bill, had provided for exemption from consent and social impact assessment in five categories but the Bharatiya Janata Party subsequently changed its position in the joint parliamentary committee which is examining the legislation.
Birender Singh said the state governments can decide on exemptions from consent and social impact assessment in any of the five areas, including projects for national security, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects where land ownership is with the government.
He denied that the BJP had changed its position on the land bill in view of the upcoming Bihar assembly elections, where the Congress and some other opposition parties were keen to make it a big election issue. The Congress has vociferously opposed changes to the 2013 land Act and had launched several agitations on the issue.
“The issue is only related to politics. It is to do with some NGOs. A politial party thinks that farmers are such a large constituency, let us do politics on that. We said do it. Let your own states make their laws,” he said.
Singh, who joined BJP last year after being in the Congress for several decades, said the government felt that procedure laid down for acquisition under the 2013 Act was protracted and there should be a provision which can make it easy and speed up the proceedings.
He said states would want that the procedure is simplified.
“There may be different conditions, let them (the states) come out with their legislation according to their own circumstances and if it is in consonance with the central act, we will certainly urge the president to give his consent,” Singh said.
Asked if the Congress states will bring changes in the 2013 Act, he replied: “Yes.” “The Congress can’t afford that in states ruled by them, there is no development,” he added.
Asked if the government stance to leave it to states to make changes to land act will expose the Congress, he said: “It will expose everybody who opposed (the NDA bill).”
He said the government had issued an executive order to extend benefits of compensation, relief and rehabilitation to land acquired under 13 central Acts as the ordinance had lapsed. These 13 Acts had to included in the 2013 land law within a year of its coming into force.
Singh, the grandson of Sir Chhotu Ram who was a prominent pre-partition politician and a champion of interests of farmers, said his predecessor Nitin Gadkari had convened a meeting last June year and almost all states had requested changes in the land act as it will be difficult for them to acquire land.
“Most of the states also raised this question that the period involved is very lengthy and if everything is followed strictly it will take 59 months minimum for any acquisition. So on that basis we brought that legislation,” he said.
He said the Congress lost assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand after which it “had a different posture and different arguments”.
“So, the U-turn is not from us, backtracking in not from us. It is the Congress which has backtracked.”
He said the government accepted suggestion to form joint committee of two houses of parliament to examine the new land bill as a way out of logjam. The new land bill could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha where the government lacks a majority.
The committee, which was expected to give its report during the July-August monsoon session, is likely to give it in during the the November-December winter session.
Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on Wednesday expressed her government’s opposition to the land acquisition bill, maintaining certain provisions take away the safeguards required for farmers in the country.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jayalalithaa expressed her inability to attend the second meeting of the Governing Council of NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog in New Delhi on Wednesday due to other pressing engagements.
The meeting would deliberate on the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, and amendments sought to be brought about by the NDA government.
As the Niti Aayog meeting has to be attended only by the chief ministers of different states, Jayalalithaa sent her speech conveying the state government’s views that are to be taken on record.
She said her government was opposed to Chapter III of Right to Fair Compensation and Tranparencey in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015.
According to Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu farmers were strongly opposed to the provisions in the bill that empower state governments to exempt specified projects from the ambit of the Act.
Jayalalithaa said the amendment bill’s provisions were hence also 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 ahead with these amendments,” she said.
As per provisions of Chapter III, consent of 80 percent of the landowners have to be obtained if the land is acquired for private project.
If the land is proposed to be acquired for public-private-partnership projects, then consent of 70 percent of the landowners is to be obtained.
Further, a social impact assessment has to be made and there are limits on acquiring agricultural and multi-cropped land.
However these provisions would not apply to projects in defence and defence production, rural infrastructure including electrification, affordable housing and housing for the poor, industrial corridors, infrastructure and social infrastructure projects, including projects under public-private partnership, where the ownership of the land continues to vest with the government.