Transport minister replies to Sonia’s letter and says UPA law was against farmers
GN Bureau | March 31, 2015
The letter war on land acquisition law has taken an ugly turn with transport minister Nitin Gadkari accusing Congress president Sonia Gandhi of misleading the country. Responding to her rebuttal, Gadkari in a fresh letter addressed to the Congress chief has alleged that the UPA government's policies had resulted in unemployment and farmers' suicides.
Two weeks back Gadkari had written letters to Sonia Gandhi and Anna Hazare on the government’s viewpoints on the land bill and sought their support. But Sonia had slammed the land bill as an "unabashed display of half-truths" and told the government to bring back the law passed by the UPA.
However, Gadkari’s new letter charges that UPA's land acquisition law gave exemptions for carrying out social impact study for certain Acts and that would help mass acquisition of land by influential people and business houses. Gadkari has said that not a single acre has been acquired under the new law even for irrigation, power transmission lines etc, which are critical for country's development.
"Under your land law, the government and private firms, which are allocated coal blocks, can acquire thousands of acres of land without doing social impact assessment, but states would have to go through this complex exercise if they need one acre of land for a school or hospital and rural road. Will it be proper?" Gadkari wrote.
Responding to a four-page letter of Sonia Gandhi, the transport minister claimed that because of the faulty law the farmers remained dependent on rains all the time.
In her letter to Gadkari, the Congress chief had rejected his offer for a dialogue, saying it was a mockery as the BJP regime had unilaterally imposed the land ordinance.
"I urge you to rise above the realm of narrow partisan politics and bring back the 2013 law in totality," Sonia Gandhi had written in her letter. Sonia said that "your proposed legislation makes a mockery of your claim that you stand for interest of farmers".
"Your government is blatantly anti-farmer and anti-poor," Sonia Gandhi said.
She said the fundamental difference between the Congress and the BJP is in understanding farmer's distress and loss of livelihood by acquisition of land without safeguards.
Being pro-farmer does not mean anti-growth, she said.
The Modi government had on March 19 reached out to leaders of opposition parties, including Sonia Gandhi, and activist Anna Hazare inviting them to an open debate on the issue while asserting that the bill was "very much in farmers' interest".
Gadkari’s March 19 letter said the government was willing to debate all aspects of the bill which is awaiting clearance in the Rajya Sabha.
A united and aggressive opposition, led by the Congress, is blocking the bill's passage in Rajya Sabha and submitted a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee earlier this week, terming the land bill as "anti-farmer".
Gadkari, while claiming that the opposition parties were criticising the bill for "political reasons", invited all leaders of major parties as well as Hazare for an open debate on any platform to discuss the nuances of the bill.
"The Narendra Modi-led BJP government has brought significant amendments to the land acquisition bill keeping the interest of farmers and rural development in mind. But some parties and organisations are opposing this bill for political reasons.
"No compromise has been made in the bill with the compensation provisions for land owners. No provision of the bill is anti-farmer... In fact, the bill will bring prosperity to villages and farmers and we are ready to debate the bill on any forum," he said in his letter.