Land bill gets 9 changes; social impact restored for infra projects

Govt forced to bend as Congress has taken stand to vote against in LS and send it to panel in Rajya Sabha

GN Bureau | March 10, 2015


#land bill   #lok sabha   #modi   #venkaiah   #amendments   #mallikarjun kharge  

While there are 52 amendments proposed by the members, the government on Tuesday moved nine amendments to the land acquisition bill in Lok Sabha as it seeks support from the opposition.

The changes include removal of exemption (requiring the consent of 70 per cent farmers in an area where land is to be acquired) to social infrastructure projects in Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model. The current law requires that consent for all projects. Among them are amendments to ensure a better mechanism for the redressal of grievances of those whose land is acquired.

It has also agreed to reinstate a social impact assessment only for social infrastructure projects. The Opposition and government allies like the Akali Dal have protested against the government's move to scrap the social impact assessment clause, mandatory in the current law, for five categories (that include industrial corridor, rural infrastructure and housing for poor).

Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had said on Monday that: “the government is willing to go in for amendments in the bill in the larger interests of the community and the country.”

Congress on Monday had decided to vote against the bill in Lok Sabha if the government does not withdraw changes or refuses to send it to the Standing Committee.

Party President Sonia Gandhi chaired two meetings of the Parliamentary Affairs Committee of the party  to discuss the strategy over the bill. The party is issuing a three-line whip to its members in the Lower House asking them to be present and vote against the measure.

Congress has also got a shot in arm with NDA ally Shiv Sena saying it has not taken any decision on supporting the legislation or otherwise.

The Opposition strategy appears to be to keep the bill pending in the Rajya Sabha without rejecting it so as to torpedo possible plans of the government to call a joint session. A joint session is possible if a bill is passed in one House and gets defeated in the other.

Naidu said the government will not use the provisions of the proposed legislation for private entities, but stressed the country cannot prosper without industry and that agriculture and industry were like “two eyes”. He said the amendments were brought about after several states had asked for changes. Responding to the opposition’s demand to refer the bill to the standing committee, Naidu said the bill, which replaces an ordinance, has to be passed before April 5. “The House will run till March 20, how then are we going to pass the bill?”

The Congress’s Mallikarjun Kharge said his party will not accept any amendments to the 2013 legislation. “Either accept the 2013 Act as it is or refer it (the bill) to the standing committee,” he said.

Several opposition parties opposed the amendments that exempt five new categories of projects from consent and social impact assessment requirements, as well as the move to facilitate the acquisition of multicrop irrigated land.

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