IN contrast to the government’s quick action on implementation of the fee regulation Act, the state seems to be making little progress on the land acquisition Act— affecting the large farmer community. Senior cabinet minister for Education and Revenue in Gujarat Government, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, recently announced that the government will expeditiously frame rules to implement the legislation that proposes to regulate fees being charged by private schools in the state from this academic year itself. Chudasama added that the Gujarat Governor is yet to give his final nod to the Bill ‘which will be done soon’.
However, when it comes to the controversial amended land acquisition Act, the government seems to be making little progress. Even after more than one year of its passage in the Assembly in March 2016 and the President’s formal approval to the same in August 2016, the state government is yet to frame rules for the Act. Without framing the rules, the amended Act cannot be implemented.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Gujarat Amendment) Act, 2016 has amended some of the major clauses of the landmark The Right to Fair Compensation and and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 – popularly known as LARR Act – enacted by previous Congress-led UPA II government at the Centre.
The amended Act by Gujarat government has relaxed some of the stringent provisions of the Central LARR Act like mandatory consent of the farmers and conducting social impact assessment of the land to be acquired to ease land acquisition for various projects.
Farmers’ community has been strongly opposing the amended Act and even leaders like Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani have said they are together against the Act. One of the prominent farmers’ groups in the state, Khedut Samaj Gujarat, has been demanding a roll back of the amended Act and is even ready to challenge the same in the court once the rules of the Act are framed.
Dalit youth leader Jignesh Mevani, who has been raising issues related to land rights of Dalits and OBCs in Gujarat said, “If the government frames the rules of the amended Act, then it gets an authority to implement the same. There is an intense agrarian crisis in the state which got reflected in the elections of district and taluka panchayat elections in which Congress got significant results in its favour. So, the government should not upset the rural-farmers community by framing the rules of the amended Act when elections are round the corner.”
Secretary of Khedut Samaj Gujarat Sagar Rabari said, “The government has notified the Act, but it is yet to frame the rules. In election year, the government would not want to invite any dissent from the farmers on the issue. Also, the youth leaders Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor have been raising the issues of farmers and have even signed a letter to join hands against the amended Act. So, by framing the rules of the Act, it is not likely to give a chance to these youth leaders to bring farmers together and launch an agitation.”
Asked on delay in framing the rules for the amended Act, Chudasama said, “The rules of the Act (amended LARR Act) have not been framed. It got delayed due to administrative reasons.”
In an election year when BJP-ruled Gujarat government is aiming to win record 150 Assembly seats, the fee regulation Act is likely to woo a huge urban middle-class population of the state. However, at the same time, the amended land acquisition act is concerning a major chunk of rural voters, farmers.