New Delhi: Government on Wednesday dismissed as "speculation" the reports that it may allow the Land Acquisition Ordinance to lapse on April 5 and said a decision on it will be taken by the Cabinet.
The government, at the same time, expressed willingness to improve the proposed Land Bill, saying the government is ready to discuss the issue with all opposition parties from which it sought suggestions, if any.
"I have seen in certain quarters today that Land Acquisition Ordinance may be allowed to lapse. These are speculation. Government has not taken any such decision to allow Land Acquisition Ordinance to lapse," Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu told reporters here.
"Whatever is needed to be done will be done by the government at an appropriate time," he added.
Separately while talking about the issue, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, "You will have to wait for the Cabinet to take a decision." Cabinet, he said, "will take a call" on the entire issue.
Naidu said, "The government is willing to talk to all political parties and anyone having doubts those doubts can be addressed."
The government had in December last year issued an Ordinance to ease rules for acquisition of land for industries and other projects. This Ordinance, as per rules, has to be converted into an Act within 6 weeks of the convening of the Parliament session following the promulgation of Ordinance.
The Budget session of Parliament started on February 23 and accordingly the Land Ordinance had to be converted into Act before April 5, failing which it will lapse.
The bill sailed through Lok Sabha but got stuck in Rajya Sabha before the Budget session went into recess on March 20.
The option of re-promulgating the Ordinance cannot be exercised as Parliament is still in session. For re-promulgating an Ordinance, a Parliament session has to be prorogued.
Prioritising the government agenda, Naidu said "Land acquisition, GST, Black money Bills are the next items for the government to pursue. I only hope that the people who are talking negative about this they understand the issue fully.
Terming the opposition to the land bill as "unfortunate", Naidu said "some people are trying to make it a political issue."
Quoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Man Ki Baat" programme and his assurance on March 22, he said "please do not make it a political issue."
The Parliamentary Affairs Minister said the Ordinance issued by the government with regard to fair compensation and rehabilitation for farmers is in the larger interest of the country and it was not a political decision.
"We feel that the important legislation should not made out into political motives. After 2013 legslation, there were lot of concerns expressed by different states, he said.
He recalled that Nitin Gadkari, as Rural Development Minister, had convened a meeting of Chief Ministers and Revenue Ministers of different states in June 2014.
Quoting the minutes of the meeting, Naidu said "32 states and UTs had participated in the meeting and majority of them expressed concerns about the difficulties being faced by state governments, with reagrad to land acquisitions.
"The development process also could not be taken forward because of the Act and they suggested in no uncertain terms, that it is next to impossible to have land acquisition and wanted changes and it is on record."
He said even some Congress CMs and a former Commerce Minister had expressed concern over the UPA's land Act.
"Some CMs of Congress have also opined and some had written to the then PM their opposition to the draft Act and the then Commerce Minister (Anand Sharma), who is a senior most Congress leader and now Deputy Leader in the Rajya Sabha, has written to the then PM against it," Naidu said.
He said former Commerce Minister (Anand Sharma) has written that "The Bill in its present shape will have adverse long term implications for manufacturing, industrialisation and urbanisation of India. The clause of consent of 80 per cent of affected families will seriously delay acquisition and in many cases halt essential project."
"I do agree with him (Sharma) when you say development will come to halt then is it not the job of the successive government to take care of the same," he added.
Naidu said the land bill is pro-farmers and will reduce poverty. "That is why we have gone for this Ordinance. The earlier law made it impossible for any land acquisition."
He said only O.05 per cent land will be acquired and 99.95 pc farmers will be benefited.
He said if the present Ordinance lapses, then farmers will not get reasonable compensation for the acquisitions made under the 2013 Act.
"Ordinance was placed before the Lok Sabha and the Lok Sabha after thorough debate, has accepted it. Meanwhile, certain people have expressed concerns and the government took note of these concerns, and brought as many as nine amendments," the Parliamentary Affairs Minister said.
He said "government has made it clear that no land acquisition will be done for private business. The farmers need not go to state capital as alleged and the authority will be sitting at district where land is acquired. They need not run to offices."
He said the objective of the Ordinance is farmers' welfare, alongwith strategically meeting the development of the country.