The objection remains the same -- 154 amendments were approved by the government in December 2012 to the Bill tabled in 2011, in the name of accommodating the recommendations of the standing committee of both Houses which examined it. Opposition MPs say what is before the legislature now bears little resemblance to the earlier version or the recommendations of the panel.
The Bill was sought to be introduced at the end of the previous session but, on protests, the government agreed to shelve doing so till the next session. The same Opposition objections were raised before the House's Business Advisory Committee, when the government tried to put the Bill on the agenda for this week. Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has been meeting opposition leaders to prevent the Bill being sent again to a committee.
"I'm giving my amendments to Jairam Ramesh tomorrow. If they don't get accommodated, then I will insist the Bill be sent to a joint select committee or a standing committee,'' Cmmunist Party of India (Marxist) leader Basudeb Acharia told Business Standard.
Sumitra Mahajan of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which had chaired the panel which had scrutinised the 2011 Bill, said her party had yet to take a stand on the matter. However, it was her personal opinion, she said, that the various changes needed to be discussed on the floor of the House. Sending it again to a committee would mean a waste of the time and effort, of MPs and government, in scrutunising the provisions.
Opposition parties say this should be an Act covering all ministries on matters concerning acquisition, which is not the case. The CPI(M) wants amendments to prevent dilution of the Forest Rights Act (FRA). A grey area in the Bill concerns Section 38B(3), about a displaced person being paid in proportion to his share in the community rights. No procedure or specifics are mentioned and there is no reference to FRA's legal requirement that gram sabha consent is needed to take over forest rights.
"I wrote to the Speaker that the standing committee should look into the Bill again, given the fact that it is no longer the document it had earlier studied," said Acharia.
In any case, said Acharia, discussion on the President's Address would be followed by discussion on the railway Budget and the general Budget, before the Bill cames on the agenda.
Acharia had written to Speaker Meira Kumar last week with his objections. She invited him for discussions and prompted Ramesh to meet him.
Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a forest right group, has written to the Speaker, urging her to send the Bill to a select committee. Activists from the group said the only reference to gram sabha consent in the Bill was a reference to consultation with panchayats at an appropriate level, implying district bodies or agencies other than the affected communities.