New Delhi | The battle over the land bill continued with over a dozen Chief Ministers belonging to Congress and other major parties today boycotting a meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who regretted that the deadlock was seriously impacting rural development.
Nine chief ministers of Congress-ruled states besides those of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha kept away from the meeting of NITI Aayog’s Governing Council chaired by Modi expressing their opposition to proposed changes being brought by the government in the land acquisition bill in the coming session of Parliament.
They opposed dilution of the provisions of the original act of 2013 in regard to consent of farmers and exemption from social impact assessment.
Even BJP ally and Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal had a word of caution that no land should be acquired without the consent of farmers and land owners and that social impact assessment should apply to all acquisitions.
Notable absentees from the meeting were West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Tamil Nadu’s J Jayalalithaa, Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik and Uttar Pradesh’s Akhilesh Yadav.
Among those who attended the meeting were Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Tripura’s Manik Sarkar and the Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states. And the two non-BJP Chief Ministers–Nitish Kumar of Bihar and Arvind Kejriwal of Delhi, who attended the meeting, opposed changes bill, which are currently being scrutinised by the Joint Parliamentary Committee.
Modi, on his part, said the deadlock over the land acquisition Bill was seriously impacting rural development and appealed to them not to come in the way of prosperity of farmers. Stressing that the Centre and States must move together to end poverty, the Prime Minister said, the political deadlock over land acquisition (law) is seriously impacting rural development, including the creation of schools, hospitals, roads and irrigation projects.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the boycotting chief ministers to introspect whether not attending the meeting was in consonance with the spirit of cooperative federalism.
Jaitley said an overwhelming section of the states felt that they cannot indefinitely wait for a consensus on the amendments to the land bill. They are keen to bring their own legislations, he told a media briefing.
If the Centre fails to approve this (bill) with consensus, then it should be left to the states. Those states which want to develop fast…can suggest their own state legislations and Centre (would) approve that state legislation. An overwhelming section gave this kind of suggestion, he said.
Observing that there was no difference between the Centre and states on paying enhanced compensation, the prime minister said political considerations should not come in the way of a solution that would facilitate development of rural areas, and greater prosperity for farmers.
Extending an olive branch, Modi remarked that ahead of the upcoming Parliament session, it was appropriate that the suggestions of states be listened to once again. Chief Ministers of the BJP-ruled states including Anandiben Patel of Gujarat welcomed the bill saying it was well considered and practical and provisions like mandatory employment to affected families would ensure justice.
The amendments to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act or land acquisition Bill was referred to the 30-member joint committee of Parliament following stiff opposition by political parties. The committee is scheduled to give its report later in the month.
The NDA government at the Centre wants to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013 to make it easier for certain sectors including industrial corridors, to acquire farm land but has faced strong political opposition, stalling the amendment in Parliament.
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