Sonia slams Modi govt on land bill

Sonia slams Modi govt on land bill
Rejecting the dialogue offer on the controversial land bill, Sonia Gandhi today alleged it was a mockery of the consensus building tradition by a "myopic" Modi government which was "bending backwards" to favour industrialists and demanded that UPA's legislation be brought back in totality.

"Proposition of a post-facto debate after unilateral imposition of anti-farmer law is mockery of building partisan consensus," the Congress president said replying in a strongly worded letter to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari.

Chiding the government for painting those opposing its land bill as anti-nationals, Gandhi asked the government to "rise above its narrow-minded politics".

Hailing farmers as the "backbone" of the country, Gandhi said Congress cannot support any law which hurts farmers, and asked the Modi dispensation to bring back UPA's land bill in totality.

Gandhi said it was regrettable that anyone championing the cause of distressed farmers and needy farm labourers was being branded as "anti-national" by a "myopic Modi government bending backwards to favour select industrialists".

She said the fundamental difference between the Congress and the BJP is in understanding farmer's distress and loss of livelihood by acquisition of land without safeguards.

Being pro-farmer does not mean anti-growth, she said. Last week, Gadkari had written to Sonia Gandhi, leaders of other opposition parties and social activist Anna Hazare inviting them to an open debate on the issue while asserting that the bill was "very much in farmers' interest".

Faced with stiff opposition on the land bill, the government had reached out to leaders of opposition parties, with Union transport and shipping minister Nitin Gadkari telling them that the government was willing to debate all aspects of the bill which is awaiting clearance in the Rajya Sabha.

Alleging that it is now now being widely recognised that the NDA government is "blatantly anti-farmer and anti-poor", Gandhi said that it is "compromising the rights of the weaker sections of society to benefit a handful of private parties".

Asserting that the interests of farmers have to be protected at any cost, Gandhi said this was "non-negotiable for the Congress party and it will "never endorse" any law that will break the  backbone of this nation.

Holding that the amendments brought forward by the NDA government negate the 2013 law in letter and spirit, she asked the government to rise above the realm of narrow partisan politics and bring back the 2013 law in totality, consistent with the sentiments and aspirations of the farmers.

She said that the 2013 Law was formulated on the premise of an extensive debate and consensus. "Every possible scenario of land acquisition was discussed threadbare, including the issues you have raised in your letter -- irrigation, defence, electricity and industrial corridors – and the bill was passed by Parliament only after all relevant stakeholders, including your party, were satisfied.

"In contrast, the amendments you have brought to this law have completely bypassed any debate or discussion. Your proposition for a debate after the government has unilaterally imposed an anti-farmer law is a mockery of the tradition of building bipartisan consensus before introducing laws of national importance," she said.

Gandhi insisted that the 2013 law was not a legacy of just the Congress party but of all parties – including the BJP – which gave their suggestions and came together for a landmark legislation to give primacy to the interests of farmers and labourers.

"This explains why opposition to this amended legislation comes not just from the Congress and the like-minded parties, but also from constituents of the NDA," she said.
Seeking to rebut points raised by Gadkari in his letter earlier, Gandhi said she was amazed at its unabashed display of "half-truths and misrepresentations."

"I should not, of course, be surprised because this is typical of your government when it runs out of logical and convincing arguments. In your letter you have sought to justify the changes you propose in the land acquisition legislation on the grounds that it promotes the interest of villages, the poor, farmers and labourers, and that it facilitates irrigation, employment, industrial corridors and the defence industry.

"Your arguments are designed to suggest that this is a new contribution that Modi government is making, in contrast with the record of the UPA government, and that those opposing your legislation are being anti-farmer and anti-national. Regrettably, all that you have said is without any foundation whatsoever," she said.

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