Lok Sabha debates land bill

Opposition and allies of NDA oppose proposed amendments in land acquisition Act

By Jitendra
Last Updated: Monday 17 August 2015

Farmers and civil society groups march through Delhi to protest the land amendment bill (Photo: Vikas Choudhary)

Amidst united opposition put up by rival and ally parties, the government initiated a debate in the Lok Sabha over the proposed amendments to the previous Congress-led government’s Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had introduced the bill on February 24 amid protests inside and outside Parliament. The Act is popularly known as the Land Acquisition Act.

But BJP’s NDA allies, including Shiv Sena Party, Lok Janshakti Party and Swabhiman Paksha Party have also protested government’s move to amend the Act.

Earlier, on the eve of New Year, the NDA government had issued an ordinance, diluting the safeguards provided for the affected people, as per the provision for “right to fair compensation and transparency”, in the Land Acquisition Act. The 2013 Act replaced a century-old colonial act Land Acquisition Act 1894 that allowed forcible acquisition of land and left millions of people impoverished and deprived them of livelihood.

NDA is justifying the change in its stance by saying the 2013 Act stalled investment of up to Rs 20 lakh crore, especially in rail, steel, mining and roads sectors.

On Monday, the Opposition came down heavily on the new government for the proposed amendment to do away with some important provisions like consent from farmers, social impact assessment (SIA), and some retrospective provisions under which unused land can be returned to owners of the land if it is not used in the given stipulated time of five years since it was first acquired. If the amendment comes into effect, public-private partnership projects—including private health and educational institutions, defence manufacturing projects, purchase of land for affordable housing projects, industrial corridors and rural infrastructure—will not require consent from land owners/farmers. Moreover, SIA will not be mandatory.

Responding to the debate, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu assured that the minister concerned would keep in mind the practical suggestions that have been given by parliamentarians. He, however, insisted that the proposed changes should be taken into consideration after consultations with all 30 states.

“Many Congress-ruled states have opposed the Act, stating that the 2013 Act has stalled development work in their respective states” claimed Naidu.

According to Naidu, Kerala government had stated that land acquisition, because of this Act, will become a herculean task. Before this, the Maharashtra government had also appealed for doing away with SIA provisions for road- and water-related infrastructure. Punjab government had stated that most of the land in the state is multi-cropping land that, according to the current Act, is hard to acquire. Uttar Pradesh government had also appealed to do away with SIA provisions. But according to some Opposition members, these apprehensions were expressed before the law was enacted and, therefore, should not be cited by BJP to push through its amendments.

Samajwadi Party MP Dharmendra Yadav rejected the claim saying that the UP government has not written any letter for the dilution of the Act.

What Opposition says

According to the Indian National Congress, the proposed amendment would take away the spirit of the 2013 Act and transform it into something like the infamous Land Acquisition Act of 1894. The provisions like consent from 70 per cent affected people for a public project and 80 per cent people for public-private partnership project will go away. Also, the easy acquisition of multi-cropping land will threaten food security of the nation. The proposed amendment should be sent to Parliamentary Standing Committee and later debated in Parliament, says the Congress.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) believes that the Government should clarify on whose request it is doing away with the consent clause and trying to push amendments hastily. “Who is demanding such a change?” asks Supriya Sule of the party. “Government would behave like zamindar once it deletes consent provisions from the Act. It should follow some good practices from states like Maharashtra or from other countries which have been able to acquire land peacefully when needed” she adds.

Meanwhile, the All India Trinmool Congress is opposing the proposed Bill tooth and nail. Kalyan Bannerjee of the party says, “The proposed amendments are taking away the rights of farmers and the people dependent on the farms and their food security.” He said this amendment also empower the governments to take away the land of schedule caste and schedule tribe. “Taking away of SC-ST land only in rarest of the rare condition but this amendment treated them as general category. This government is for the corporate, by the corporate and of the corporate” he adds.

AIADMK: We are against the forcibly acquisition of the land for the private and PPP projects, says K Ramachandran. “We support acquisition for the public purposes and government project only” he adds.

CPI (M): We disapprove this amendment bill which only serve the corporate interest. Such amendments again take back us to Law of colonial era 1894.

Biju Janta Dal (BJD): The proposed amendment is taking us back to again to colonial era. “My basic question is ‘development for whom?’ ” says Tathagat Satpaty. “Now this government makes the word ‘development’ as distasteful. Our government led by Naveen Patnaik in Odisha has been peacefully acquisitioned land with consent. Even I term law brought by previous government was shameful and the proposed amendment by current government is more shameful” he adds.

Shiv Sena Party: The party is important ally of the present government but came up with scathing attack over government’s move of amending the act.

“This amendment came at time when farmer suicide rate are at high as past across the country especially in Maharashtra. Only this year in January, 103 farmer’s suicide has been taken place in Maharashtra. This law will only perpetuate the problem instead of solving it” says Arvind Samant. “Land is state subject then why Central government is showing such haste. At what cost we are developing? Farmers of this country not going to forgive this government” he adds.

Telangana Rastra Samiti(TRS): “The present government, when it was in opposition supported the Act in toto” says Vinod Kumar Boianapalli. “Many states have not yet framed the rule but government proposed amendments. Government should not dilute the retrospective clause under which land kept for indefinite time without stated use” he adds.

He pointed example of his state that Andhra Pradesh Industrial Investment Corporation has acquired 1.24 lakh acre of land out of which thousand of acre of land are still unused from many years. “A huge land scam is undergoing on because of such provisions. The 2013 act blocked the loophole but again this government trying to insert this provisions for misuse. Land should be returned to land owners if it is not utilized in next five years” says Boianapalli.

Samajwadi Party (SP): Dharmendra Yadav claimed that Uttar Pradesh government had not written any letter to union government for the dilution of the current act. “We have not written any letters regarding this. The UP government has already acquired 30 thousand of hectare land for Agra expressway without single litigation” says Dharmendra Yadav. “The proposed amendments are anti farmers and anti-people” he adds.

Debate in Lok Sabha on Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015, 09/03/2015

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.