New York: Amid protests over land acquisition bill, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said that the BJP-led government is trying to "radically alter" the 2013 Land Act to ensure developmental activities especially in rural areas.
"That is a very challenging piece of legislation for any government to alter. Ostensibly the popular view is you don't allow any land to be acquired," he said while addressing students and faculty at Columbia University here yesterday.
"This is the difficulty of passing these laws immediately on the eve of election because you come out with a highly impractical idea which is very difficult for anybody to oppose on the eve of election and then you rush through with it," said Jaitley, who is here on a private visit.
He said every state government, irrespective of political party, is now saying that for it any form of developmental activity in a country which is still developing, has come to an end.
He said land is required for rural roads, irrigation, electrification, affordable housing for the poor and defence projects but under the current provisions of the law, land cannot be acquired until several conditions are satisfied.
"Entire activity in this area has stopped completely. (One) can't get land for any defence projects. That is one of the most challenging things. How do you not dilute the compensation mechanism but some of the procedures with regard to national security, rural infrastructure, affordable housing will have to be relaxed. That is the challenge which we are currently facing and we will see how we go through with this challenge of Parliament," he said.
The minister acknowledged that "certainly land becomes a slow bill" and to ensure that it is passed, the government will have to try "every political methodology" including persuading the opposition and correcting public opinion.
"Let's not reach a situation where creation of infrastructure and industry become bad words. At the end of the day if nothing works, the numbers will. Under the Indian constitution mechanism, numbers are fairly on our side," he said, adding that the 2013 Land Act is an area that the BJP-led government is trying to "radically alter".
Jaitley, who presented the BJP-led government's first full budget on February 28, said the "big idea behind this budget is preparing a particular constraint."