Opposition to Land Bill Threatens Budget Session

Tuesday, February 24, 2015
The ordinances will lapse if the bills are not passed by March 20 (file photo: Reuters)

The opposition staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha when the NDA government introduced the land acquisition amendment bill on Tuesday. The government is seeking to convert the six ordinances it issued last year into bills in the first part of the Budget session.

The opposition has remained firm that the land ordinance would not be passed by the Rajya Sabha, where it enjoys a majority.

According to media reports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told his party MPs at a weekly party meeting earlier on Tuesday that the land bill – criticised as "anti-farmer" by the opposition – would in fact help the poor.

"Amendments to Land Acquisition Bill were based on suggestions made by Congress-ruled states. The government will not be on backfoot on it," he told BJP MPs.

The prime minister asked party MPs to “bust the myths” propagated by opposition parties on it, according to PTI.

The bill will replace the ordinance promulgated by the government in December, which had brought changes in the earlier bill passed in 2013 by the previous UPA administration.

The ordinance made significant changes in the land act, including the removal of consent clause when acquiring land for five areas - industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.

Defending the government, finance minister Arun Jaitley had earlier said it is well within its rights to take the ordinance route.

"The reasoning that ordinances are to circumvent or bypass Parliament is not rational. The UPA took the path several times," said Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha.

Hitting out at Jaitley, Congress leader Anand Sharma said, "You expect Parliament to rubberstamp your ordinances... You don't send anything to the Standing Committee."

The government said it would hold discussions in one more attempt to bring all parties on board with its plan.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu accused the opposition parties of “insulting” democracy and said “minority cannot dictate to the majority”.

He pointed out that 32 states and Union Territories had made a representation to the Centre, demanding change in the law as it made development “impossible”.

With the government scheduled to present its first full-year budget on February 28, it may consider the opposition’s demands on the land bill to prevent a parliament washout.

“Our government gives top priority to the welfare of farmers. We are willing to discuss all points,” Naidu said.

The prime objection to the land acquisition ordinance has been that it removed the need for written consent from 70% of landowners for joint public-private projects.

To make matters worse, the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) has objected to the ordinance, seeing in it a reason for the BJP’s recent drubbing in the Delhi assembly election.

Meanwhile, activist Anna Hazare began a two-day protest in Delhi against the "anti-farmer" land law on Monday.

He got support from old associates Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, the new chief minister of Delhi and his deputy, who joined Hazare in his protest on Tuesday.

- Karan Singh

To Learn More:

Govt tables land bill in Lok Sabha amid uproar, Oppn stages a walkout (Hindustan Times)

Modi: No going back on land acquisition; Opposition spreading ‘myths’ (PTI)

PM Narendra Modi asks BJP MPs to defend Land Acquisition Bill (Times of India)

Anna protests against Land Acquisition Bill, lashes out at Modi govt (PTI)

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