The government is contemplating withdrawal of The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 during the monsoon session of Parliament starting July 18.
The move comes at a time when the BJP is bracing for the assembly polls next year in Uttar Pradesh, a largely agrarian state. Ahead of the Bihar assembly elections last year, the government decided not to issue the land ordinance for the fourth time, hoping to blunt Opposition attacks on its “anti-farmer” land Bill.
Sources said the issue of withdrawing the Bill was discussed briefly at the June 29 meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs during which a senior minister said it was time to withdraw the Bill since the Joint Parliamentary Committee examining the issue had decided with consensus to restore most provisions of the earlier land acquisition Act.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, sources said, was of the view that retaining the 2015 Bill was no longer required since states had been asked to come up with their own versions of land acquisition laws and many had already done that.
Sources said M Venkaiah Naidu, who was the then Parliamentary Affairs Minister, agreed but said the withdrawal could take place after the parliamentary panel examining the issue handed its report.
The 30-member joint committee on the land Bill, sources said, will hold a meeting mid-session to clear the remaining few clauses of the Bill and submit the report. Since its chairman S S Ahluwalia is now a minister and can no longer continue as the panel head, the committee can meet only after a new chairman is appointed.
The panel has sought repeated extensions to submit its report ever since the Bill was referred to it on May 13, 2015.
The Bill, which sought to replace an ordinance, was first passed in Lok Sabha on March 10, 2015, then introduced again two months later with certain amendments in the Lower House. It was referred to the parliamentary panel after Opposition parties led by the Congress stonewalled its passage. Some allies of the government also flagged their disagreement on the new provisions. The government had to give in since it lacked numbers in Rajya Sabha.
Bhartruhari Mahtab, BJD member of the joint panel, told The Indian Express it is high time that the committee submits its report. “There was no necessity for the Modi government to bring in those amendments in the land acquisition Act of 2013, and we will welcome if the government decides to withdraw the Bill,” he said.
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