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States can seek changes to land act: Rural Development Minister Birender Singh

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By Prashant Sood

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.

Photo credit: newsnation.in
Photo credit: newsnation.in

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see in the times to come that (on) this most contentious issue, they would be coming with legislation that it should be withdrawn,” he added.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.

(IANS)

Next Story

Is NYAY Going To Be A Game Changer for Congress?

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers.

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Congress on Friday promised to create one crore jobs across the southern state
Congress state units given more power for 2019 battle- wikimedia commons

By Amit Kapoor & Manisha Kapoor 

The idea of launching Nyuntam Aay Yojana, a cash transfer scheme that intends to provide Rs 72,000 per year to the poorest 20 per cent Indian families, by the Congress Party if it comes to power, has stirred a debate among the policymakers about whether the move is economically viable or is just a tactic by the Congress Party to garner votes in the upcoming general elections.

The discussions are foreseeable, provided that this intervention to ensure basic income to the poor households will cost the country somewhere between 1.5 per cent to 3.4 per cent of GDP, a number higher than the government’s expenditure on healthcare and education. The implementation of NYAY means an additional cost between Rs 3.6 lakh crore to Rs 7.2 lakh crore per year.

To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. However, this will be a major dent in India’s budget expenditure and will explode the fiscal deficit from the current 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

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An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. Pixabay

Apart from fiscal prudence, the other immediate concern surrounding the scheme is the identification of beneficiaries and the database that will be used for this. There is no official income database available with the government at the individual level and since most of the poor work in unorganised rural areas, there is no direct way of verifying their incomes such as through a payroll or income tax.

The proponents of the approach state that a good starting point could be Socio Economic Caste Census of 2011 if one goes by multi-dimensional aspect of poverty. However, one can’t ignore the fact that even if the scheme defines poverty by assets and not income for quick exclusion rules, the data is outdated. A scheme targeted at reducing poverty can’t use data that is seven-eight years old. Even if one ignores that, it should be noted that there are major methodological issues with how data was collected. This is reflected in the discrepancies that exist in the data collected through SECC and other governmental data. A fresh survey for the identification process will lead to possibilities of corruption as in other targeted schemes. For instance, various studies have shown that many people who are not below poverty line have BPL cards.

One should also keep in mind that there exist significant disparities across Indian states and districts in terms of income levels and affordability of basic needs such as education, healthcare etc. Therefore, the same amount that means a lot to a person living in a low-income state or a state that has good access to public facilities such as public hospitals, schools etc would not be enough for a person trying to make a living in a high-income region. As a result, a prerequisite for such a scheme is a detailed regional level survey on income characteristics of Indian states and districts.

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To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. Pixabay

Another major concern surrounding the scheme is its inflationary implications. It is argued that the act of transferring cash to the target population will boost their purchasing power, which would lead to an increase in demand for goods and services and, thus, push prices upwards. Advocates of the approach have tried to argue that studies around the world present a lot of evidence to the contrary.

An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. However, these evidences should be considered with a pinch of salt. They rest on the assumption that the money will be spent on useful goods, that will help the local economy in becoming more productive. Though this will not be the case always.

Also Read: Food Unites People Across The Globe

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers. This idea is supported by claim that in-kind transfers will help by encouraging the consumption of right things, such as healthy food.

Given India’s concerns about rising unemployment rates, jobless growth and the fact that we need to have effective utilization of our young population to gain a competitive edge over other economies, the promoters are trying to project that NYAY can prove to be a game changer. However, for the Indian economy, a better alternative would be to strengthen the existing public services landscape by removing social, political and personal barriers, along with carrying out structural reforms that leads to creation of more productive jobs. (IANS)