Gadkari seeks debate on land bill; fumbles before village heads

Gadkari seeks debate on land bill; fumbles before village heads

He may have challenged Congress president Sonia Gandhi and social activist Anna Hazare for a debate on the amendments to the land acquisition bill, but Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had a tough time explaining the same to village leaders.

Chosen by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lead the government defence on the land bill, Gadkari on Thursday shot off letters to leaders of political parties challenging them for a public debate on the Bill.

The Congress, however, claimed that they have not received any letter from Gadkari. At the same time, the main opposition made it clear that any amendment to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 enacted by the UPA government was not acceptable to it.

Sending clear signals on the government’s determination to take forward the amendments to the 2013 law, Gadkari made an impassioned speech before at a conference of village heads organised by the All India Panchyat Parishad.

Gadkari read out letters written by the then chief ministers of Maharashtra and Haryana demanding changes to the land law citing difficulty in acquiring land for development projects. “They were raising a valid point. Had the consent clause existed earlier, even the building of the Bhakra Nangal Dam – lifeline for farmers of Punjab and Haryana – would not have been possible,” he told the participants mostly from neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

Seeking to puncture the Congress’s claims on huge amount of land proposed to be acquired along the industrial corridors, Gadkari said this would lead to a situation of industry being concentrated in areas around major cities.

“We want to set up industry at the place where the raw material is produced. For example, cotton is grown in Vidarbha region. It makes sense to set up textile units there and not in some other place. Such a step would lead to job creation in the villages,” he argued.

However, Gadkari had to beat a hasty retreat when the village heads sought clarity from him on whether the compensation payable to farmers would be based on market rate of the land or circle rates notified by district authorities.

The minister’s reply that land was in the concurrent list of the Constitution and hence it was for the district authority to take a call, failed to satisfy the village heads.

After a brief argument with them, Gadkari asked them to submit their concerns in writing. He also assured them that the same would be addressed and if required a meeting with the prime minister could also be arranged.

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