Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday reached out to farmers on his government’s beleagured land acquisition Bill, saying “so many lies” were being spread about it.
As part of his Mann ki Baat programme on radio, this time dedicated to farmers, the PM said his government had to bring changes as there were “lacunae” in the earlier law, which was “enacted in a hurry”.
“Our commitment is to ensure benefits to farmers… So many lies are being spread… It is my fervent appeal to farmers not to make decisions on the basis of these lies. Don’t be misled,” Modi said during his 30-minute interaction. “You trust me, I will not betray your trust.”
Trying to allay apprehensions expressed by different rights groups and farmers, the PM added, “Rumours are being spread that Modi is bringing the law to reduce compensation. I can’t even think of committing such a sin… Such misinformation is being circulated for political reasons. You have to guard against it.”
The Opposition and even BJP allies have objected to the changes in the Bill diluting the consent clause and social impact assessment while acquiring land.
The PM, who has also addressed his party MPs more than once on the land Bill and the need to address the “wrong perception” regarding its clauses, said they had brought in the changes because the UPA’s law had lacunae. “Once the law was implemented, some issues had been brought to our notice and we felt that farmers were being fooled by that law,” Modi said.
“Our attempt is to address these lacunae to ensure that the law is beneficial for villagers, farmers, their future generations and to ensure they get electricity and water. “
Besides, the PM reminded the farmers, he had already promised in Parliament that “if somebody feels that something is still lacking, we are ready to make improvements”.
A farmer listening to Mann ki Baat (Express Photo)
Slamming the Congress, which is spearheading the protests against the land Bill, the PM said that “those projecting themselves as sympathisers of farmers and undertaking protests” had been using the 120-year-old law to acquire farm land for over 60-65 years after Independence and were now targeting his government which is “trying to improve upon the Act of 2013”.
He underlined that the Bill brought by his government had the same compensation provisions as the 2013 Act and denied that the new measures would benefit the corporates. He also explained that the ‘no consent’ provision in the proposed law applies to acquisitions by the government for government or PPP projects, and that the same clause exists in the previous Act, and that social impact assessment had only been made less time-consuming and less complicated, to help farmers.
The “biggest lacuna” in the 2013 Act was that 13 aspects of government activity, like the Railways, national highways and mining, for which maximum land is acquired, were kept out of its ambit, meaning that compensation for acquiring land for these purposes would be paid on the basis of the 120-year-old law, Modi said.
“Tell me, isn’t it a lacuna? Isn’t it a mistake?…We corrected this, and in the new Bill, these activities have been covered, and as a result, four-time compensation will be given for the land acquired,” he said.
“Our intention is only to see that farmers benefit, their children benefit, villages benefit. So if there are any lacunae in the law, these must be addressed,” the PM said.
He went on to point out that there were “voices from states” demanding changes in the law. “States like Maharashtra and Haryana, where the Congress was in power and which claim to be sympathisers of farmers, implemented it but gave half the compensation prescribed in the law,” Modi said.
States were free not to implement the law even after the government succeeds in getting the changes incorporated, he added.
Noting that farmers had raised problems such as village “strongmen” troubling them, mafia harassing them, natural calamities, non-availability of clean water and lack of means to remove dead animals, Modi said, “We can have the right to rule only when we address such small, small things.”