Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday struggled to forge a consensus among chief ministers for his government’s move to amend the existing Land Acquisition Act, even as 12 chief ministers skipped the meeting convened by him to discuss the issue.
While chief ministers like Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal squarely opposed any move to dilute provisions of the 2013 Act, even allies like Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal and J&K CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed advised caution in acquiring land without consent of the farmers.
While the Lok Sabha passed the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015, it got stuck in the Rajya Sabha. A parliamentary panel is currently scrutinising it.
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Most of the dissenting chief ministers conveyed to the government that in case it fails to forge a consensus on the bill, then the states should be allowed to enact their respective legislation and the Centre should vet them.
Vice-Chairman of the NITI Aayog Arvind Panagariya had recently urged states to liberalise their land use policy and introduce transparent land leasing laws to facilitate industrialisation and investments.
The 12 Chief Ministers skipped the meet either in protest or citing engagements.
Chairing a two-hour long meeting of the governing council of the NITI Aayog comprising chief ministers, Modi argued that the Centre and states must join hands to end poverty as “political deadlock” over land acquisition is seriously impacting development in the rural areas including creation of schools, hospitals, roads and irrigation projects.
“Political considerations should not come in the way of a solution that would facilitate development of the rural areas, and greater prosperity for the farmers,” he told them.
While West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee boycotted the meet citing her opposition to the proposed dilution of some provisions in the bill, her Tamil Nadu counterpart J Jayalalithaa and Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik skipped the meeting citing other engagements.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told the meet that his government is opposed to any attempt to dilute, nullify or tamper with the letter and spirit of the 2013 Act in its original form.
“Vociferously opposed any dilution of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR) 2013 at the NITI Aayog meeting today,” Kumar tweeted after the meet.
Among the NDA allies, Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal said that the “Land Bill 2015 has triggered concerns within the farming community” in his state.
While arguing that land acquisition should be left to the states, he stressed the need for land owners’ consent and social impact assessment for all acquisitions.
A source said that Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed emphasised the need to forge a consensus on the issue and give greater freedom to the states in pursuing national objectives, but in sync with their respective conditions.
Chief ministers of BJP-ruled states — Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat — contended at the meet that amending the existing law would be in larger public interest.