Land bill in LS next week; tough times ahead for govt

Centre determined to get Lower House approval

Land bill in LS next week; tough times ahead for govt

Eight hours have been allocated for discussion and passage of the controversial Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 (LARR) when it comes up in the Lok Sabha on March 9.

The government seems determined to push the bill through the Lower House even as the Opposition parties have vowed to oppose it tooth and nail. Once approved by the Lok Sabha, the bill will head for the Rajya Sabha where it is certain to be defeated because of lack of numbers on the government’s side.  This may pave the way for the government to call a joint session of two Houses of Parliament for its passage.

However, with its own allies opposing the bill, it will be tough for the government to get it passed in the joint session too, admit BJP floor managers. The NDA has 395 members out of the total 788 in both the houses, of which the BJP alone has 327 MPs. Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi heard some BJP MPs express their apprehension about the bill, particularly its scope to land the party in trouble due to the Opposition’s bid to give it an “anti-farmer” tag. 

A firm Modi has asked the BJP ministers and MPs to speak out in support of the bill on the ground that it is aimed at speeding up development in five areas:
development of industrial corridors, social infrastructure such as education, rural infrastructure such as roads and power, housing for the poor, and the country’s defence capabilities. 

The bill makes land acquisition easier in these areas by exempting them from several provisions of the present law.

But the Opposition, led by the Congress and the Left, have held that the bill has done away with a provision seeking consent from land owners as well as the social impact assessment for even private and public-private projects.   These parties say it has actually opened the way for acquisition of multi-crop land and made it difficult for land owners to get back their land if it is un-utilised for five years as was provided in the 2013 Act. 

The farmers will not be able to easily seek redressal against officials who do not follow the provisions of the law in terms of acquisition, compensation and rehabilitation.

There is no indication as yet whether any back channel talks initiated by the government with political parties to build a consensus has made progress. There is also no word on whether the government will actually tweak some provisions of the bill to make it more palatable for NDA allies. 

The BJP insiders have not ruled out the possibility of  the government coming forward with some amendments to please farmers by addressing their concerns. But, they are also saying that any amendment will not change the “core” aspect of the bill to replace the ordinance.

In fact, a day ago, Modi accused the opposition of misusing its majority in the Rajya Sabha to obstruct legislative changes designed to stoke development.

Other financial business in Parliament next week include debate on the Railway and general Budgets.

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