'Readiness to accept land bill report not climbdown'

'Readiness to accept land bill report not climbdown'

The government on Tuesday said that its readiness to accept the report of a parliamentary panel on land Bill should not be construed as a “climbdown” as it was always “open to changes” based on consensus.

Rural Development Minister Birender Singh said that the government was ready to accept the recommendations of the joint parliamentary committee on the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill 2015.

His remarks came a day after the panel purportedly agreed to recommend against most of the changes the government sought to introduce in the 2013 Act.

“We must consider the issues on which the Joint Parliamentary Committee, which is considered a mini parliament, reached a consensus. If the report of the panel comes with dissent notes, we will study the suggestions made by the dissenters too,” Singh told journalists on Tuesday.

He said that the government would take a call after studying the report of the panel.

“It all depends on what report the joint committee gives and whether the report was agreed upon on consensus, or dissent notes were given,” said Singh.  

The parliamentary panel is expected to submit its report on August 7.

“There is nothing like climb-down for anything. It is you, who are saying that we are going back... We are sticking to our stand. Even when we referred the matter to the committee, we had said that we were of the view that the process of acquisition had to be speeded up, but we were very clear that farmers’ interests should not be ignored for that,” he added.

The Bill seeks to empower the Centre or state government in acquiring land without carrying out social impact assessment if the acquisition is for setting up facilities for “defence and defence production, rural infrastructure including electrification, housing for poor including affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects including projects taken up under Public Private Partnership mode, where ownership of the land continues to be vested with the government.”

It also seeks to do away with the requirement of obtaining consent of 80 per cent of people to be affected by the project if the government is acquiring land for private entities for those specified purposes.

The government promulgated three ordinances, as not only the opposition parties, but also some of the ruling allies opposed the changes.

Apart from MPs of the Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Left parties, the representatives of the BJP in the panel too argued in favour of retaining key provisions of the 2013 law. Of the 15 amendments proposed by the government, nine were substantive in nature.

The panel already discussed six of the nine issues and a consensus reached largely to retain provisions of the 2013 law.

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