A united Opposition on Monday scored a major victory by forcing the ruling BJP to agree to drop the controversial amendments to the land acquisition Bill, introduced through series of executive orders.
The Congress-led Opposition forced the Modi government to take a U-turn by restoring the key provisions of consent clause and social impact assessment in the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act. The Modi government had promulgated an ordinance in December last year and scrapped the consent clause and social impact assessment provision, setting off a political furore.
Ironically, BJP members themselves moved amendments at the meeting of the Joint Committee of Parliament examining the Bill, to restore the land Act to its original form as passed by the then UPA-II government in 2013.
Besides restoring the two key provisions, amendments were also moved by BJP members to drop the controversial ‘Section 10 (A)’ introduced by the Modi government.
The new section had sought to exempt rural infrastructure projects, defence, affordable housing for poor people, all industrial corridors and all infrastructure projects under public-private partnership from social impact assessment (SIA) and consent clause.
It also allowed acquisition of multi-cropped farmland without SIA or majority consent.
Of the 15 amendments to the land bill proposed by the government, four were procedural to correct errors while two changes came out of the 2013 law.
However, the remaining nine were substantive and were opposed by the Congress, NCP, Trinamool Congress, SP, BSP, YSRCP, CPM, JD(U), AIADMK and the Shiv Sena.
The Opposition members had the edge in the 30-member joint committee to which the Bill was referred in May after the government failed to get Parliament’s seal of approval for its ordinance.
The Committee on Monday discussed six of the nine substantive amendments and the remaining three would be deliberated upon on Tuesday. The Committee, chaired by BJP leader S S Ahluwalia, is expected to submit its report to Parliament on Friday. “It is as good as the UPA Bill passed in 2013,” said a Congress member of the Committee.