A day after the Centre recommended promulgation of an ordinance to amend Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 and make it less stringent, former rural development minister Jairam Ramesh Tuesday said the change would pave way for forcible acquisition.
The Act was moved in the Parliament and passed during Ramesh’s term.
“Both from the process and substance point of view, this is deeply disturbing. It further vitiates the atmosphere in Rajya Sabha,” Ramesh said, saying it was “unfortunate” that the Centre made no effort to call an all-party meet. “Such a dilution opens doors for forcible acquisition, excessive acquisition and diversion of land…by giving up consent clause, you are opening doors for forcible acquisition and in my view, forcible acquisition under any circumstance must be avoided,” he said.
Ramesh said ex-rural development minister Gopinath Munde and Chaudhary Birender Singh, who holds the charge now, had assured him there wont be any changes in the Act.
Ramesh also said the move was regressive and added the government may have a “brute majority” in Lok Sabha, but will face several questions on the issue in Rajya Sabha.
Asked about Congress-ruled states’ demand for dilution of the Act to push development on the ground, Ramesh said the issue transcended political parties. “In India, the experience of last 60 years is that irrespective of political parties, forcible land acquisition, diversion of land and excess land acquisition has taken place…And irrespective of political parties, compensation has been lower than the market rate and most importantly rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R),” he said. “The Land Act, 2013, had its supporters and detractors within the Congress party too, but we created a consensus,” he added.
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh said the NDA’s was “a government of ordinances”. “Amending the Land Acquisition Act is anti-farmer and BJP is anti-farmer. Congress would oppose every move to dilute Land Acquisition Act. All political parties who are pro-farmers must come together to oppose it,” he added.
Former Union minister Manish Tewari alleged that by “diluting” the Act, the Centre has sent out a message “it is a government of corporates, by corporates and for corporates.”
The CPM, too, termed the ordinance an “authoritarian” step.
“By taking recourse to ordinance raj, the BJP-led NDA government is undermining the essence of parliamentary democracy and showing authoritarian tendencies,” it added.