The Cabinet on Tuesday cleared the re-promulgation of an ordinance to amend the Right To Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 - commonly known as the Land Acquisition Bill - incorporating all the nine changes cleared by the Lok Sabha on March 10.
Top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sources said the party was consulted and it backs the government on the issue. “The BJP and the government’s message is this – development and reform can’t wait.”
They said the BJP and Modi government would “expose the false propaganda by some in the Opposition” that the land Bill is anti-farmer.
However, party sources did not rule out accommodating ‘genuine’ concerns on the issue of some others in the Opposition when the ordinance comes up for discussion afresh in Parliament.
Opposition parties such as the Biju Janata Dal and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam have come out in open support of the amended ordinance.
After Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Union telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “All Constitutional measures will be followed with regard to the ordinance on the land Act.”
The ordinance with nine amendments had been cleared by the Lok Sabha and was awaiting introduction in the Rajya Sabha when the two Houses broke for a month-long recess on March 20. The original ordinance, promulgated on December 31, 2014, will lapse on April 5.
Now the new Ordinance will be once again sent for Presidential assent. The President had prorogued the Rajya Sabha (discontinued session without dissolving it) on Saturday on the recommendation of the Cabinet to enable re-promulgation of the Land Ordinance.
The Constitution mandates at least one of the two Houses should not be in session for an ordinance to be promulgated. The two Houses, which began their session on February 23, now meet on April 20 with the Lok Sabha continuing its Budget session while the Rajya Sabha starting a fresh session.
The land ordinance was among the six executive orders issued by the government. While five of them were cleared by Parliament, the land measure is stuck as the Narendra Modi government is in minority in the upper House. Once it is re-promulgated, the land ordinance will be 11th ordinance to be issued by the Modi government.
Among the changes incorporated into the old ordinance is a provision that would limit land acquired for industrial corridors up to 1 km on both sides of highways or railways. Besides, private schools and hospitals have been omitted from the definition of public purpose.
After coming to power, the BJP-led government had amended the Right To Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 through an ordinance based on the suggestions made by representatives of state governments.
The changes were strongly protested by the main opposition parties including the Congress, which dubbed the move anti-farmer.
“Let the land acquisition Bill be passed in Parliament first. If it proves in future that it is hurting farmers' interests, we can always amend it. The government is ready to do that," Home Minister Rajnath Singh told PTI in West Bengal.
SOME MAJOR AMENDMENTS
Up to 1 km can be acquired on either side of a railway line or highway for industrial corridors; only industrial corridors set up by Centre or states covered
Prior to notifying acquisition, govt to ensure bare minimum land is acquired
Govt to survey wasteland, including arid, and maintain records
Compulsory employment to at least one member of the affected family of a ‘farm labourer’
Hearings/grievance redressal in districts where land acquisition takes place
Social infrastructure omitted from exempted categories, private schools and hospitals omitted from definition of public purpose
- Courts can take cognisance of offences under this Act by govt servants according to section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure