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Land Bill: NDA may favour withdrawal of contentious amendments

Apparently keen to shed the "anti-farmer" tag ahead of assembly polls in Bihar, the NDA government is likely to favour withdrawal of all major contentious amendments in the land acquisition act of 2013 that it had brought through an ordinance last December.



New Delhi: Apparently keen to shed the "anti-farmer" tag ahead of assembly polls in Bihar, the NDA government is likely to favour withdrawal of all major contentious amendments in the land acquisition act of 2013 that it had brought through an ordinance last December.

Its decision to allow the executive measure to lapse is part of the larger plan as it is not keen to push for the changes in the UPA law, sources said.

However, Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh, does not treat it as "defeat" for the government.

"It was never a matter of ego for us. We still believe that both the interests of farmers as well as the development should go hand in hand. The bill is still before the Parliamentary Committee. We will wait for its final report," Singh told PTI.

He said that the government has already agreed to accept whatever unanimous recommendations the committee gives.

"The committee unanimously recommended that they are not in favour of removing consent clause and SIA (social impact assessment). Moreover, our purpose that farmers whose land are acquired under the other 13 laws continue to get the benefits of compensation, relief and rehabilitation is served by this government order," the Union minister said.

He was asked why the government did not promulgate the ordinance for the fourth time to maintain "continuity" as it did on previous two occasions after bringing the 13 other central acts under the purview of land bill through an ordinance in December 2013.

"The prime consideration behind our bringing ordinance was to ensure the compensation and relief and rehabilitation provisions of the 2013 land Act are also applicable to farmers, whose land is acquired under the 13 other central Acts and that their interest must be protected.

"From January 1 till now, our efforts have been in that direction. The previous government did not do it. Hence we had to do it," Singh said when asked why the government brought the ordinance at the first place if it had to finally dump the changes like removal of consent clause and SIA that were brought through the ordinance last December.

Giving up the ordinance route, the government yesterday issued an 'order' to include 13 central Acts like National Highway and Railways Acts to extend benefits to those whose land is acquired under land law.

The ordinance also made significant changes in the Land

Acquisition Act including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas - industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.

With the quiet burial given to the executive measure and the Joint Committee of Parliament headed by BJP MP S S Ahluwalia already favouring bringing back consent and SIA clauses in land bill, the NDA is unlikely to bring them back even in Winter session when the panel will submit a report, the sources said.

They said the realisation that changes introduced in UPA's law will be difficult to implement for it had dawned on it by May when the issue saw a consolidation of non-BJP parties so much so that even allies of NDA joined the issue opposing the clauses of removal of consent clause of social impact survey through the ordinance.

"This is not a matter of life or death for me. And neither was it the agenda of my party or the government," the Prime Minister said in last week of May summing up the mood of the government.

With NDA allies like Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and Swabhimani Paksha as well as four RSS bodies opposing the changes in 2013 land bill, the realization within the government was complete that continuing with the changes won't be possible.

In August, the BJP members in the Parliamentary panel made a major climbdown and agreed to bring back the key provisions of UPA's land law including the ones on consent clause and social impact assessment and drop controversial amendments brought by the Narendra Modi government in December last year through an ordinance.

"They were not opposing. They were only putting forth their point of views. Government had from the very beginning maintained that it is open to accept any suggestion, which is in interest of farmers. So where is the question of victory or defeat," Singh asked.

Attacking the Congress for not bringing these 13 laws under the purview of UPA land Act, Singh said he was surprised as to why the previous government did not do so.

Singh, who had formerly been in Congress, had on many occasions said the land bill was passed by the UPA in a hurry keeping in mind Lok Sabha polls under Rahul Gandhi's push.

"It is beyond my understanding these 13 acts were left out when 2013 land law was enacted. All these are central Acts and should have been brought under the ambit of the UPA land law then itself. Why it was not made applicable to them then," Singh said.

The Land Acquisition Act, 2013 had exempted 13 acts from its purview with the condition that they would be included under the purview of the act within one year. The NDA's ordinance brought these 13 acts under the new land law.

These acts include the Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition and Development Act 1957, the National Highways Act 1956, Land Acquisition (Mines) Act 1885, Atomic Energy Act 1962, the Indian Tramways Act 1886, the Railways Act 1989, the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958, the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act 1962 and the Damodar Valley Corporation Act 1948.

The other ones include The Electricity Act 2003, Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act 1952, the Resettlement of Displaced Persons (Land Acquisition) Act 1948 and the Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act 1978.

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