New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday offered to make changes in the contentious land acquisition Bill if the Opposition parties felt any of its provisions were anti-farmer.
During a 70-minute speech in the Lok Sabha, the PM spoke of his government's efforts to recover black money and construct nearly 65,000 toilets for girls in schools. He also explained his prolonged periods of absence from Parliament and sought the Opposition parties' support to pass the land Bill.
Much of the Opposition, as also some of the government's allies and Sangh Parivar outfits, are against the amendments that the Modi government wants to bring to the Land Act of 2013 - one of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's flagship pieces of legislation. The government had brought in an ordinance on December 31 and tabled a Bill in the Lok Sabha to replace that ordinance on Tuesday.
The amendments seek to make acquiring of land for public purposes easier and increase compensation for farmers. But the Opposition has termed the changes in the Bill "anti-farmer". As things stand, the Bill is likely to get defeated in the Rajya Sabha.
The PM, replying to a debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President's address, requested the Congress to not make the Bill an issue of prestige. "We should not have ego that there can be nothing better than what we did. When you passed the Land Act (in 2013), we stood shoulder to shoulder with you. We knew that you wanted to take political mileage out of it. Still we stood by you," the PM told the Congress in the Lok Sabha.
The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the Congress had started the 16th Lok Sabha on a sour note when the government refused to recognise Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge as leader of the Opposition. On Friday, Modi said the Congress should not complain about changing of names of schemes but instead feel proud as the objective was to solve problems.
On amendments to the land Bill, Modi said several chief ministers had told the government how the 2013 law was against farmers' interests, that it hampered development and building of infrastructure for irrigation. He said the 2013 law hindered acquiring land for military and nuclear infrastructure. "If you feel there are still any shortcomings, I am ready for any changes in it... Don't make this an issue of your prestige," he said.
The PM critical of those who had criticised his prolonged absence from Parliament, stating that as PM he needs to attend several events. The PM snubbed the Congress over the UPA's flagship scheme - Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA). He said MNREGA would continue with "honour and dignity". The PM said his political acumen told him that MNREGA should be kept alive as it was a "living monument of your (Congress) failures".
Modi said he "will keep beating the drums that you formulated for the poor (the scheme) to force them to continue to dig holes in the ground even after 60 years of Independence. You have done a good thing by leaving your footprints, which the people should know."