The government’s attempts to push through two reform-oriented bills — The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015 and the Goods and Services Tax Bill — have been stalled for now, and will not be passed in the monsoon session of Parliament.
Despite coming close to a consensus on the issue of the land acquisition bill after the government did a U-turn on some of its contentious amendments, the Joint Committee of Parliament failed to reach an agreement Monday on the issue, leaving finalisation of its report for later this year.
Key reform Bills go back into the cold bill will now be tabled only in the winter session of Parliament. The committee was slated to table its report Tuesday, after having sought several extensions.
The passage of the bill pertaining to goods and services tax (GST), which figures in the list of business for Tuesday, also seems unlikely this session, sources in the government said Monday.
This could delay implementation of the new GST regime from the planned timeline of financial year 2016-17 — the Bombay Stock Exchange shed close to 300 points in a matter of 10 minutes as soon as it became clear that the GST and land acquisition bills were being deferred.
Chaos in the Lok Sabha resumed Monday with Congress members again storming the well, holding placards and shouting slogans. The Congress MPs returned to the House after boycotting it last week in protest against the suspension of 25 of its members by the Speaker.
On the land acquisition bill, sources said that the government, after retracting six of the nine major amendments it had brought in through an ordinance and subsequently a bill, was reluctant to soften its stance on two of the remaining amendments. But the opposition stuck to its position.
During the committee’s meeting last week, all 11 BJP members had moved amendments seeking to bring back the consent and social impact assessment (SIA) clauses, besides dropping amendments pertaining to the use of the term “private company” versus “private entity”, industrial corridors and the burden on defaulting civil servants.
But two key clauses, which were to be discussed Monday, remained sticky points.
The first clause pertains to the retrospective aspect of the bill. The ordinance had sought to amend the retrospective clause of the 2013 legislation by excluding the period spent on litigation from the applicability of the retrospective clause. While the government wants to stick to its amendment, the Congress-led opposition is demanding that the 2013 clause be retained.
The clause relating to the period of time after which a piece of unutilised acquired land must be returned to its original owner has also become a bone of contention. While the original law said if acquired land is not utilised after five years, it should be returned, the ordinance had amended the provision (Section 101) from a “period of five years” to a “period specified for setting up of any project or for five years, whichever is later”.
Sources said the government proposes to change it to “a period of five years or a period specified by the government”, whereas the Congress-led opposition wants to revert to the clause as it was in the 2013 legislation.
Only the retrospective clause was taken up for discussion briefly by the panel Monday which witnessed a sharp exchange of words between the BJP and Congress.
Sources in the panel said former rural development minister and Congress member Jairam Ramesh, along with some others, walked out in a huff when they were told that their party was engaging in “delaying tactics”. They were pacified by committee chairman and BJP leader S S Ahluwalia and eventually returned to the meeting.
With MPs from parties like the Congress, Trinamool and Left continuing to oppose the proposed changes, Ahluwalia requested them to set aside differences and try to reach a consensus. At this, the Congress proposed a voting on the clauses. Sources said the BJP has been reluctant to allow voting since the numbers are not in its favour.
As the contentious issues still need to be resolved, Ahluwalia proposed to extend the panel’s mandate till later this year. This received support from across parties. BJD’s Bhratruhari Mahtab and CPM’s Mohammed Salim agreed immediately, as did the Trinamool Congress.
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