The government failed to weave a consensus today with opposition parties on the revised Land Acquisition Bill, at an all-party meet convened here.
The government is fighting an opposition demand to return the Bill to the standing committee of Parliament on the subject, saying it would try to accommodate some of their demands for changes. Led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the opposition wants the Bill returned for scrutiny, saying the changes wrought have gone much beyond the recommendations made by the MPs’ panel, on the earlier version.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh told parties they could give their suggestions by the coming Monday and these could be discussed at an all-day meeting of all parties on April 18, a participant said. The government wants to present the Bill in Parliament’s budget session, which resumes on April 22 after a break.
“Unless some changes are made, I will insist on the Bill being sent to the standing committee,” Basudeb Acharia, leader of the CPM in the Lok Sabha told Business Standard.
He said the minister had in February asked MPs from all parties to give their suggestions on changes in the Bill. “Only one of my suggestions has been accepted, regarding the removal of a threshold level for rehabilitation. What I wanted was an all-encompassing Act, which includes land acquisition allowed under various Acts of Parliament. These laws don’t provide for rehabilitation and I want these to come under this Bill. Unless this is accepted, we want the Bill to go to the standing committee,” he said
He said BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had said the new Bill expanded the context in which land acquisition can be allowed, going against the spirit of the standing committee recommendation that land should not be acquired by the government on behalf of private parties or public-private partnerships. She also insisted the Bill be sent back to the panel, he said.
The main objection is to the fact that Ramesh’s ministry made 154 amendments in the Bill in the name of accommodating recommendations by the standing committee. It is now a different Bill altogether, says the opposition, with little resemblance to the earlier version or the recommendations made by the committee.
They’d made their objections clear before the budget session began, with letters to the Speaker. Acharia, for one, was invited for discussion and Ramesh made a reconciliatory offer. Despite these efforts, the stalemate continues.