FOLLOWING amendments that reflected give-and-take and back-channel discussions, the NDA government on Tuesday secured Lok Sabha nod to crucial changes in the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which the government says would expedite the pending infrastructure projects as well as reform initiatives.
However, in a clear signal that the government’s woes on legislative agenda are far from over, the opposition parties, which constitute majority in the Rajya Sabha, said that they would press the government to send the bill to a Select Committee for scrutiny. The main opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress and the Samajwadi Party, have already said that they would insist on sending the bill to the Select Committee when the bill reaches the upper house.
In the Lok Sabha, the new bill, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill (Amendment) Bill 2015, was passed by voice vote after incorporating nine changes moved by the government.
Arguing that the bill should be sent to a Standing Committee, the Congress walked out of the Lok Sabha.
Although BJP allies Shiv Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Lok Janashakti Party and Swabhimana Paksha had reservations against some provisions in the bill, which was issued as an ordinance in December 2014, a meeting with senior ministers on Tuesday brought them on board. At the meeting convened by Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Rural Development Minister Birender Singh briefed the allies. Naidu, sources said, also talked to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and sought his cooperation. Thackeray told Naidu that his party would support the bill and vote for it in Lok Sabha, the sources added.
SAD leader Prem Singh Chandumajra said after the meeting that his party would back the bill. “Our party is on board and will support the bill as the government has agreed to 90 per cent of our amendments,” he said. However, during the debate in the Lok Sabha, SAD MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura insisted that farmers’ consent be made mandatory for acquisition of land.
The meeting was also attended by Ashok Gajapati Raju, YS Chowdhary (TDP), Anant Geete and Anil Desai (Shiv Sena), Harsimran Kaur (SAD), Ramvilas Paswan and Chirag Paswan (LJP), Anupriya Patel (Apna Dal), Niephru Rio (NPF), Prem Das Rai (SDF) and Raju Shetty (Swabhimana Paksha).
Shetty and BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab and Tathagata Sathpaty have moved amendments but did not press for vote on them.
Deepender Hooda requested for an amendment that would ensure two per cent jobs for families of farmers affected when private firms acquire land. However, the government rejected the suggestion.
During the eight-hour-long debate on the bill, members from the Congress, TMC and JD (S) attacked the government for doing away with the consent clause and the social impact assessment in the legislation.
“Farmers want the consent and social impact assessment clause in the Bill, but you (NDA government) only hear the voice of corporate boardroom. Nothing can be more shameful than this,” Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi said. The MP from Assam said the government should not view the farmers as opponents, but as “part of development”. The MPs also expressed concern over the food security in case of the government’s bill gets implemented.
According to former PM H D Deve Gowda, the government feared that it would be difficult to get the consent from farmers. “More robust safeguards should be built so that the poor, the farmers and their rights are not trampled,” he said. TMC’s Dinesh Trivedi alleged that the government was going against the BJP manifesto.