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Is Land Acquisition Bill good for common man? Weighing the pros & cons of the law

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By Harshmeet Singh

Congress’ opposition to BJP’s amended Land Acquisition Bill reached the streets of Delhi on Monday with a number of leaders including Anand Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jairam Ramesh and Ambika Soni gathering at Jantar Mantar and addressing their supporters. Reports of local police resorting to lathi charge and water canon against Congress supporters also surfaced in the media.

This key Bill has become a bottleneck in the ongoing Budget Session of the parliament with the Congress staging a walk out last week when the Bill was passed with 9 amendments in the Lok Sabha. For the Bill to eventually take the form of an act, it would now have to pass through the Rajya Sabha as well, where the BJP doesn’t have a majority. The opposition (mainly comprising of the Congress and the Samajwadi Party) are adamant on sending the Bill to the standing committee, which would ensure that the current ordinance expires. They will have a chance to have their way when the bill comes up for consideration in the upper house.

Attaching urgency to the Bill, the BJP had issued an ordinance in December last year. When the President asked the Government about the reason behind such urgency to issue an ordinance, Arun Jaitley reportedly told him that projects worth $300 billion were on hold due to certain provisions in the 2013 Land Acquisition Act which this bill seeks to amend.

“If at any time, except when both Houses of Parliament are in session, the President is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, he may promulgate such Ordinance as the circumstances appear to him to require.” All such ordinances issued by the President when either house is not in session cease to operate after six weeks from the reassembly of the Parliament. This explains Government’s urgency in passing this critical bill.

Context of the Bill

‘Land Acquisition’ essentially refers to buying of land from an unwilling seller. In this case, it would exclusively include the Government buying land from the land owners for development projects. The first law in this regard was framed by the British Government in India in 1894 which gave the Government power to acquire any land for public purposes (no ifs no buts!). Since this law gave immense power to the Governments at the centre and the states, no one bothered about changing it and the Governments frequently acquired lands for public projects and for setting up PSUs after the independence. Post the LPG reforms of 1991, the Government started giving lands to the private players as well, hoping to script a glorious growth story.

The land owners (farmers in most cases) were seldom compensated for their land. There were no provisions for their rehabilitation and resettlement which meant that their families were left to suffer. Such acquisition didn’t require the consent of the land owner either. Moreover, in many cases, the land owner was just given a few days’ notice to vacate the land. Though the land was taken on the name of ‘development’, these farmers never became a part of such development.

Small disagreements took the shape of protests over the years. A number of such protests were seen at different places such as Nandigram, Singur and Sardar Sarovar Dam. With opaque land acquisition practices becoming the norm, there was never a bigger need for a transparent land acquisition bill. The current bill in question, which seeks to bring certain amendments in the Land Acquisition Act passed by the UPA government in 2013, has been termed as ‘anti-farmer’ by the opposition parties in the parliament and Anna Hazare on the streets.

Pros of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015

  • The original act of 2013 considered as many as 13 cases of land acquisition as ‘exceptional’ and these were thus excluded from the act. These included land acquisition for metro rail, national highways, railway lines, atomic energy projects, petroleum and mineral pipelines and others. The new amendment includes all such cases in the Act and thus provides similar rehabilitation and resettlement benefits in these cases.
  • The ordinance also gives the power to the Government to acquire multi crop irrigated land, if it is meant for the projects related to industrial corridors, defence, national security, rural infrastructure including electrification and social infrastructure. This would ensure that such projects are fast tracked and the bottlenecks are removed with considerable ease.

And now the cons

  • The most visible con in the amended bill which is being voiced by the opposition is that it takes away the need for consent of the land owner if the land is being acquired for any of these five purposes – rural infrastructure, industrial corridors, affordable housing, defence and public private partnership projects. While the Government supports this clause and attaches it to its ‘aim for development’, the opposition is up in arms saying that this would lead to land getting grabbed at will. Notably, the new act also exempts these five areas from any Social Impact Assessment, an observation many have overlooked!
  • The Act of 2013 provided that if the acquired land is unused for five years, it must be duly returned to the owner. But the provisions in the ordinance has replaced it with ‘five years or any period specified at the time of setting of the project’, thus giving the government a free hand at deciding the fate of the project and the land.

Race against time

The second phase of the Budget session ends on 8th May. If the government doesn’t manage to pass the bill in the upper house during the budget session itself, the ordinance would stand void. Since the Government is free to issue the same ordinance any number of times, it would be safe to assume that the Government would finally get its way with the amended bill. But when and how remains to be seen.

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List of UPA Schemes Renamed by Modi Government

The above comparison shows that BJP is not only trying to steal the credit of previously launched schemes by Congress party by just repackaging them as new schemes

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India, elections, vietnam, BJP
Modi's LPG scheme reduced household air pollution: Study, VOA

A lot of BJP supporters claim that government led by Narendra Modi has launched several schemes for the development of nation in the last four years. What they failed to acknowledge that Narendra Modi has done nothing else than repackaging and renaming the previous schemes started by Congress and took their credit to his name. Shocked, aren’t you? In the last four years, Modi government has failed to develop any original ideas. So in order to appear like the government is working, they have renamed various successfully running schemes started by Congress party to fool people of the nation into believing that BJP has launched numerous schemes in the country. If you find this fact hard to believe, here is the list of s Modi government schemes that are nothing but altered name previously running schemes in the nation:

Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana

Originally Basic Savings Bank Deposit Account (BSDBA)

The (BSBDA) scheme was launched in August 2012 according to RBI which provided facility of no minimum balance required to maintain the bank account and avail all the banking services. The number of withdrawals were however limited to 4 per month. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) is nothing else than a wrap up on BSDAB scheme adding Rs 1 lakh of accident insurance, overdraft facility up to Rs 5,000 and a life insurance of Rs 30,000 to previous BSDAB accounts.

Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana (BBBPY)

Originally National Girl Child Day programmes

BJP
The government has initiated a lot of programmes to bring about a change in the attitude of people and stop these kinds of social evils. Wikimedia Commons

According to a report of Centre for Development and Human Rights presented in 2016, the girl child education programme listed under the BBBPY scheme is nothing but the repackaging of older Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan started by Congress.

The act of similar repackaging of scheme can be found in BBBPY’s programme to improve child sex ratio and reduce the dropout rates of school girls. These programmes were already available under Congress party’s Dhanalakshmi and Sabla schemes.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

Originally Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan

One of the major Modi government schemes, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched in September 2014 is nothing but restructured result of Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan scheme which was started by Congress in April 2012.

Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan was also a renamed scheme by Congress party which was originally introduced as Central Rural Sanitation Programme by Congress in 1986.

Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana

Originally Indira Awaas Yojana

Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana, BJP
‘Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana ‘ is an initiative by Government of India in which affordable housing will be provided to the urban poor.

According to a parliamentary standing committee report, it is found that the most anticipated Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojna by Narendra Modi nothing by rechristened format of Indira Awaas Yojana. The funny fact about the renaming of this scheme is that several web pages of Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana still open as Indira Awaas Yojana documents.

Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana

Originally Rajiv Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana

According to an information release by government on 23rd July 2015, the Rajiv Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana stated by Congress is merged under the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana launched by BJP with no significant changes.

Soil Health Card scheme

Originally National Project on Management of Soil Health and Fertility

According to the Outcome Budget 2015-16 of the agriculture and cooperation department, a soil health card was included in the scheme of National Project on Management of Soil Health and Fertility. The similar soil cards were also issued by Congress under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture.

 

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, BJP
The aim of this scheme is to form 10,000 clusters over the next three years and bring about five lakh acres of agricultural area under organic farming to develop agricultural activity in the country

 

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana

Originally Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and other programmes

The lack of creativity and insight in Modi government schemes can be seen in its Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana which is nothing but the fusion of some existing components which are amalgamated together as a cluster based programme. This fact was reported in the Outcome Budget 2015-16 of the agriculture and cooperation department.

Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Yojana

Originally Jan Aushadhi scheme

The Jan Aushadhi scheme was developed by Congress to supply unbranded medicines at reduced prices. This scheme was executed on 23 April 2008 and the first store under this scheme was established on 25 November 2008. According to an statement issued by Loksabh on 144th March 2017, the Jan Aushadhi Scheme is renamed as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana.

Make in iIndia, BJP
Make in India, a type of Swadeshi movement covering 25 sectors of the economy,

Make In India

Originally National Manufacturing Policy

The funny part about BJP copying this scheme from Congress National Manufacturing policy is that they forget the remove the information of previous policy in the new website of Make In India scheme. The broken download link redirects to the 2011 older policy document of year 2011.

Also Read: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Appeals MPs To Utilize Their Winter Season Well

The above comparison shows that BJP is not only trying to steal the credit of previously launched schemes by Congress party by just repackaging them as new schemes, but the BJP lacks credibility and insight required to develop new schemes necessary for the development of the nations. Some other Modi government schemes that were actually the brain child of Narendra Modi and BJP part resulted in drastic disaster in nation. GST and demonetisation are two biggest examples of such failed Modi government policies.