Opposition rejects amendments to land acquisition norms

Opposition in Lok Sabha today tore into the controversial Land Acquisition Bill, saying its "draconian" and "anti-poor" provisions would have a deleterious effect on India's food security.

The Opposition members, ranging from the Congress and Trinamool Congress (TMC) to the Left, BJD and AIADMK, launched a tirade against the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill 2015, which was moved for consideration and passing by Rural Development Minister Birender Singh.

Several opposition members particularly opposed the NDA government's move to do away with Section 2 and 3A of the existing land acquisition law which provided for social impact assessment before land transfer and safeguarding the interest of farmers.

Participating in the discussion, Jyotiraditya Scindia (Congress) said the law in its present form would allow private entities to take away multi-crop land, which will put at stake food security of the people of the country.

"Is the government trying to reduce this country to an importer of foodgrains? If this bill gets passed, farmers will give up all expectations from this country," Scindia said.

Kalyan Banerjee (TMC) accused the government of taking away farmers' rights and said his government will oppose the Bill "tooth and nail" to safeguard their interests.

"This government is for the corporates, this government is anti-poor, anti-farmers and will sell the country to industrialists," Banerjee said.

Opposing the "draconian" provision, C N Jayadevan (CPI-M) said the rehabilitation and compensation as provided in the Bill would adversely affect the interest of farmers. The government has a clear intention to have a "pro-corporate and anti-farmer" land acquisition law, he said.

The Land Acquisition Bill, which seeks to replace an Ordinance issued in December to amend the Land Act 2013, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on February 24.

Along with the Bill, the House today took up a statutory resolution, moved by NDA partner Swabhimani Paksha and Opposition parties like Congress, CPI(M), TMC, RSP and BJD, disapproving it. (more)

The amendments, among other things, seek to exempt social impact surveys for land acquisition for five purposes including industrial corridor, rural infrastructure and housing for poor.

As the Minister moved the Bill for consideration, Leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge demanded that he should explain some provisions of the Bill before a discussion could be initiated. Singh, however, said he would speak only when he replies to the debate.

During the discussion, K N Ramachandran (AIADMK) dubbed some of the amendments as "ultra-reformist" and said his party had strong reservations against exempting land acquisition by private hospitals and private educational institutions.

Tathagata Satpathy (BJD) said the amendments were detrimental to the interests of the poor who would lose their land without compensation.

Accusing the government of not discussing with the opposition parties before going ahead with the amendments to the Land Act, Scindia said the NDA government's slogan of 'sabka sath, sabka vikas' (support of all, development for all) has "fallen flat on the face as it was now ignoring the interest of farmers".

65 per cent of India's population was dependent on agriculture, but the government is only thinking about the corporates, the Congress leader said.

Citing earlier instances of several BJP members opposing dilution of the consent clause and no social impact assessment when the UPA was in power, Scindia said these members are now doing a "U-turn" and supporting the amendments to the Bill.

"Through the amendments, you have made the Bill look like a body ripping it of its flesh and blood," he said, appealing to the members to vote against the amendments when the Bill comes up for passage tomorrow.

Under the amended law, the mandatory "consent" clause and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) will not be applicable if the land is acquired for five purposes.

The measure to replace the ordinance makes 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.

The amendments bring 13 legislations, including those relating to defence and national security, to provide higher compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement benefits to farmers whose land is being acquired, under the Centre's purview.

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