Commerce Minister Anand Sharma led the opposition to the controversial Land Acquisition Bill piloted by Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh in the Cabinet today citing an adverse effect on the investment climate,forcing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to defer the issue to a Group of Ministers (GoM).
Sharma did not attend the Cabinet meeting but wrote a strongly-worded note,apparently with instructions to Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth that it should be read out at the meeting. He attended the CPP meeting chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the morning and left shortly thereafter for Cambodia to attend the ASEAN economic ministers meet.
Sources said the PM chose to read out part of Sharmas note,which made the point that a number of provisions of the draft legislation were not industry-friendly and would scare away investment if carried out in the current form.
Several other ministers were also said to have reservations though they did not express it in the same manner,sources said. Transport Minister C P Joshi was of the view that national highways and the areas around it should be left out of the purview of the legislation or else it would adversely affect land acquisition for highway projects.
The differences in the Cabinet and delay over the Bill appeared to have created a ripple in the Congress,especially since the legislation was being pushed by the National Advisory Council led by Sonia Gandhi. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi had also taken interest in the Bill after he led pro-farmer agitation in Uttar Pradesh.
The proposed Bill,which has provisions for adequate compensation to farmers for acquisition of their land,was taken up at the Cabinet meeting for the second successive time in a week. The draft Bill,among other things,has a clause which compels private companies to provide relief and rehabilitation to those who are displaced,if the land that they acquire is over 100 acres in rural areas and 50 acres in urban pockets.
Senior ministers Kamal Nath and Ajit Singh were also of the view that the Bill should be deferred as sufficient time was not given to study the draft. A supplementary sheet,sources said,was provided at the meeting itself which members could not read through. It was Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily who proposed that the Bill be referred to a GoM,which was promptly accepted by the PM.
Jairam Ramesh tried to explain provisions of the Bill but failed to convince members. He told the Cabinet meeting that he had made the Bill as investor-friendly as possible,incorporating 25 of the 28 recommendations made by the parliamentary standing committee.
The Bill has also faced opposition from the UPA ally Trinamool Congress,though its representative Railway Minister Mukul Roy was not present at the meeting today. Rechristened as The Right to Fair Compensation,Resettlement,Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition,the Bill has been hanging fire for long.
Road cleared for 2 bihar univs
The Union Cabinet on Tuesday cleared amendments in two education-related Bills the Central Universities Act 2009 and the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill. The former relates to setting up of two central universities in Bihar at Gaya and Motihari. On the accreditation Bill,HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has moved an amendment that will make it mandatory for all state government institutes to be accredited by the state accreditation agency. ENS