Cabinet approves re-promulgation of land ordinance

New Delhi: The union cabinet on Saturday gave its approval to the re-promulgation of the land acquisition ordinance but the move was strongly criticised by the Congress and the Janata Dal-United.

The cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its approval to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015.

The land acquisition ordinance will be promulgated for the third time. The ordinance was first promulgated in December last year to amend the Act passed during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2013.

An official release said that changes in the 2013 Act “will facilitate farmers to get better compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement benefits” in lieu of land compulsorily acquired by the concerned government.

Modi in an interview to The Tribune published on Saturday said that no decision taken by his government concerning the land bill was “anti-farmer”.

He said chief ministers insisted on a change in the 2013 Act and he thought of addressing their anxieties.

Asked by the newspaper if he was confident of the bill’s passage, Modi said it was not a question of life and death for him and it was not on the agenda of his party and the government.

The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha with official amendments in March but was not taken up in the Rajya Sabha where the government lacks a majority.

The land ordinance was again promulgated in April.

With the Congress and several other opposition parties firmly opposed to the bill brought by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, it has been referred to the joint committee of parliament.

The recommendation of the cabinet for re-promulgation of the ordinance will be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said the government decision for re-promulgating the ordinance was an “insult” to parliament and the government should seek forgiveness from people on the “insensitive decision”.

The decision to re-promulgate the ordinance “was a gross injustice with farmers of the country… This is insult of the Indian parliament which had refused to pass the anti-farmer bill”, Surjewala said.

Accusing Modi of “double-faced anti-farmer attitude”, Surjewala said the prime minister had said he was open to suggestions on the land bill but his government again put its stamp on the ordinance.

“On the one hand, the BJP-led government forms a joint committee to have a re-look at the bill, on the other hand it plays a cruel trick (to approve re-promulgation of ordinance),” he said, adding the decision should be immediately taken back.

In Bihar, which will face assembly elections in a few months, JD-U leader and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said the Modi government was “trying to impose” the land bill on farmers and it will prove costly.

“Modi’s government is desperate to pass the land acquisition bill in the Rajya Sabha to impose it on millions of farmers who are protesting against it across the country,” Nitish Kumar told reporters in Patna.

He also alleged that the prime minister was concerned about the interest of corporates and was trying to push the land bill.

“People as well as different political parties, except the BJP and its allies, have been opposing the bill and demanding its withdrawal. Such opposition has never been seen before,” he said.

Nitish Kumar said Modi had made the land bill a “prestige issue” by ignoring the opposition by the country’s farmers.