Narendra Modi government introduced the land acquisition amendment bill in the Lok Sabha amid uproar by the Opposition. Opposition parties fought over the bill on the floor of the house; Congress staged a walkout. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill 2015 will replace an ordinance which had been promulgated by the NDA government on December 30 last year. Civil society activists, led by Anna Hazare are protesting on the issue at Jantar Mantar, a stone throw away from the Parliament. Arvind Kejriwal has joined Anna Hazare on his second day of protest against the contentious land ordinance and shared the dais with the social activist. Kejriwal was among a host of leaders cutting across party lines who joined the agitation on a day the government introduced the contentious land acquisition bill in the Lok Sabha amid a walkout by the Opposition.
Land Acquisition Bill passed by Parliament in 2013 was done after elaborate consultations and the present ordinance was not in the interest of the farmers and favoured only few industralists and corporate houses. Under pressure from all quarters, the Narendra Modi government tabled the controversial Land Acquisition Amendment Bill 2015 to replace the contentious ordinance in Lok Sabha. However, the move triggered severe protests as a united Opposition demanded a debate on the issue.
The earlier Act provided for consent of 70 per cent of land owners whose land is acquired for PPP projects. There is a mandatory condition for provision of job for those whose land is acquired for industrial corridors. With this decision, restoration and relocation and recompense necessities of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 will be applicable for the 13 existing central pieces of legislation including the Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition and Development Act, 1957, the National Highways Act, 1956 and the Land Acquisition (Mines) Act, 1885. Government said Cabinet approved certain amendments in the Act “in order to remove” many difficulties which have been reported and certain amendments have been made to further strengthen the provisions to protect the interests of the ‘affected families’. In addition, procedural difficulties in the acquisition of land required for important national projects required to be mitigated. Government said its decision to bring excluded 13 Acts under the Land Acquisition Act for compensation and Rehabilitation and Resettlement purposes was a “pro-farmer step”. In the process of prolonged procedure for land acquisition, neither the farmer is able to get benefit nor is the project completed on time for the benefit of society at large. Therefore, the present changes allow a fast track process for defence and defence production, rural infrastructure including electrification, housing for poor including affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects including projects taken up under Public Private Partnership mode where ownership of the land continues to be vested with the government.
The existing Act vide Section 105 (read with Schedule IV) has kept 13 most frequently used Acts for Land Acquisition for the central government projects out of the purview. These Acts are applicable for national highways, metro rail, atomic energy projects, electricity-related other projects etc. Thus, a large percentage of famers and affected families were denied the compensation and R&R measures prescribed under the Act. The present amendments bring all those exempted 13 Acts under the purview of this Act for the purpose of compensation as well as rehabilitation and resettlement. However, these don’t assure benefits for farmers and affected families.
The Land Acquisition Law ensured that the compensation for land acquired for industrial and commercial purposes are effectively directed to those whose lands have been acquired. The decades-interference of middlemen and agents are hampering the compensation paid to the victims. Expectedly, the BJP government embattled this law to restore the dominance of middlemen and eliminate land sharks.
Here the question arises that, why had not BJP, when they were in opposition during UPA regime, raised these points when the land acquisition was passed in the Parliament with its help. At that time, they wanted the toughest possible bill to be passed which shows them being pro farmers and not pro corporate houses. Since the elections are over and they are in government, they are doing amendments so that land acquisition process becomes easy and industrialist friendly.
Either way, farmers are the losers who have to sacrifice their lands for the development of the country. Government can’t run on corporate houses’ instructions. Politicians are following industrialists’ call and seeing their own benefits. In 2004, BJP lost for its anti-farmer approach inspite of ‘India Shining’ and I think farmers will repeat the same in the year 2019. Did BJP miss the pulse of the rural India?
Justifying its decision to make changes in the Act, government said, ministries and stakeholders had been reporting many difficulties in the implementation of the legislation.