New Delhi: Under pressure from its constituents, the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has held consultations on how to accommodate views critical of its proposed changes to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
The Act was revised through an ordinance and tabled in Parliament on Monday. A Bill to replace the ordinance will be tabled in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s parliamentary board, its top decision-making body, met on Monday evening to discuss its strategy on the ordinance. After the meeting, Union minister Ananth Kumar said Home Minister Rajnath Singh would continue to listen to activist groups on the matter, adding the government was open to constructive suggestions from the Opposition in Parliament.
Senior government officials, however, indicated no major changes would be countenanced.
The land ordinance had done away with the need for social impact assessment (SIA) in five categories of acquisition, though the government could relent on this front. Initially, SIA was envisaged as a way to prevent loss of livelihood not only for those who lost land, but also those who, despite not holding land, earned their living from related small shops or itinerant trade.
The NDA government believes SIA slows the acquisition of land. This is a major contention between the BJP and the Congress.
Another issue is the 80 per cent consent clause. The government has done away with the need for consent to acquire land for security purposes, rural infrastructure, defence and industrial corridors. A senior minister indicated the government was willing to reconsider that and bring about a need for 50 per cent consent for land acquired for these purposes. In attempting to get the Opposition on board, the government could also consider dropping an exemption in this regard to the rural infrastructure sector.
On Monday, the Congress officially stated its points of objection to the ordinance. “The ordinance has robbed the very soul of the United Progressive Alliance’s 2013 land Act by fundamentally altering it in respect of consent and social impact assessment study,” said party leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi. The Congress has demanded the government restore the SIA and the consent clauses. The party also objected to fertile land being acquired for such purposes.
“We shall agitate, inform and educate on these aspects against the present land ordinance,” Singhvi said. The Congress has already announced it will hold a demonstration against the ordinance at Jantar Mantar here on Wednesday.
Congress pradesh committees have already started holding demonstrations against the ordinance across the country.
Social activist Anna Hazare has announced he will embark on a jail bharo programme unless the government scraps the land acquisition Bill altogether.
Many in the NDA have counselled the government against alienating the Opposition over small issues. They say for a number of Bills, the government will need the help of the Opposition, especially in the Rajya Sabha. There is talk of the government being flexible on the land acquisition law and forcing the Opposition to accept the coal ordinance, which, among other things, enables the Centre to open non-captive coal mining to the private sector.