A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to narrow down political differences on amendments to the land acquisition Act failed to make much headway, the first indications that the BJP government was prepared to go slow on the Bill were visible on Thursday. Four government secretaries scheduled to depose before the joint committee of parliament looking into the Bill failed to show up today.
While panel members led by NCP’s Sharad Pawar took on the government for making a “mockery” of the meeting, the underlying message was clear: there is no urgency in the government to push through the Bill in the Monsoon Session which begins on July 21. For the second straight meeting, the panel failed to transact any business on Thursday.
Members authorised chairman S S Ahluwalia to seek extension of the deadline for submission of its report. The panel was to submit its report on July 27. Sources said Ahluwalia would seek an extension till March 3.
On July 6, the committee had decided to summon secretaries of the departments of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Rural Development, Land Resources and Road Transport and Highways to hear their views on the amendments to the 2013 Act. The members had decided that if the government was able to reply to their queries, the panel could take up clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill from July 22.
With the secretaries failing to show up, sources said the MPs asked Ahluwalia why the government was making announcements on the Bill when it was not even taking the process of parliamentary scrutiny seriously. The government had said on Wednesday that states could have their own land acquisition Bills.
Pawar reportedly said the government’s statement on the Bill while the panel was still looking into the issue was an “insult”.
Sources said Jairam Ramesh of the Congress, Derek O’Brien and Kalyan Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav and BJD’s B Mahtab also criticised the government. While CPM’s Md Salim arrived late because of a delayed flight, he too took on the government.
The panel has received 672 representations from stakeholders and 52 people have appeared in person so far. Opposition members claimed that 670 stakeholders have rejected the amendments, and only CII and FICCI have supported the Bill. Fifty of the 52 people are reported to have backed the UPA’s 2013 land Bill. Sources said five organisations associated with the Sangh Parivar, including the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and Swadeshi Jagran Manch, have opposed the amendments.
The three members of the GST select committee will give dissent notes Friday. Though the Congress is isolated in its demand for an all encompassing GST, its opposition makes it difficult for the Bill to make the cut as it requires the consent of two-third members of the House.