New Delhi: The title of the Land Acquisition Bill was changed on a suggestion by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi to convey the message that the UPA government was working for the interest of farmers. This was stated here today by Union Minister Jairam Ramesh.
"Rahul Gandhi is responsible for changing the title of the Bill...He (Gandhi) said the essential thing is right to fair compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement package which need to be highlighted. That is how the new title came," the Minister told reporters here when asked about contribution of the Congress Vice President in enacting the law.
`The Right to Fair Compensation And Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013` is the new title of the legislation. When introduced in Lok Sabha two years ago, the title of the Bill was `The National Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011`.
Ramesh, who is also a key Congress strategist, said the Land Acquisition Bill, along with the Food Security Law, enacted by Parliament in the just concluded Monsoon Session, will be "big issues" not only in Lok Sabha polls scheduled next year but in Assembly elections due by the year-end.
He said the title of the new Act, suggested by Gandhi, conveys the Congress-led UPA government`s determination to address widespread and historical injustices that occurred in the wake of land acquisition by establishing strong legal prerequisites that need to be discharged first.
"Think of a title that conveys the essence of what you are trying to say," Gandhi had told Ramesh when the Rural Development Ministry finalised the path-breaking bill to replace the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
"Gandhi said look at Bush (then American President George W Bush) who gave the title USA PATRIOT Act, which conveyed its purpose so clearly," Ramesh said.
The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 is an Act of Congress that was signed into law by then President Bush as a response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Ramesh also commended the contribution of his Officer on Special Duty Muhammad Ali Khan in thinking over the suggestion made by Rahul and coining the new title.
The Minister also recalled contribution of Sonia Gandhi and National Advisory Council headed by her in formulating the new legislation.
While addressing Hindi and regional media two days after Parliament passed the Land Acquisition Bill, Ramesh attacked "English speaking people" for criticising the path-breaking legislation.
"English speaking people are opposing the law. English newspaper, English news channels... I am not a Leftist, I am not a jhola walah. I am not a Marxist. But I would say it is a class (haves and have-nots) issue. It is difficult to hear voices of farmers, Dalits, tribals and landless in our country," the Minister said and added that this was the reason why all parties supported the Bill in Lok Sabha.
"In Lok Sabha, there were not much ifs and buts. They supported us. They gave us valuable suggestions. It was discussed thoroughly. All of them, including Rajnath Singh (BJP chief), argued for a more farmer-friendly version of the legislation," he said.
The Congress leader said the Land Acquisition Bill and the Food Security Law will be highlighted as Congress-led UPA`s achievements in the upcoming Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.
"Of course, while we go into a political campaign, certainly it will be part of our election campaign. Food Security, Land Acquisition --all these will be big issues while we will go to the people," he said.
"Why in the national elections? In Madhya Pradesh, in Chhattisgarh, in Rajasthan, in Delhi...In forthcoming Assembly elections also these will be election issue," Ramesh said in response to a query.
Congress has always maintained that the two bills will be "gamechanger" in the Lok Sabha polls. The Food Security Bill visualises to end hunger and malnutrition by providing cheap foodgrains to some 80 crore people.