‘Secret deal between BJP-BJD on Land Bill’

Bhubaneswar: Coming down heavily on BJP and BJD over the Land Acquisition Bill, former Union minister and senior Congress leader Jayaram Ramesh today alleged that the two parties have struck a secret deal to get the Bill passed.

“If the BJD is really interested in protecting the interests of the farmers, tribals and democracy, it must oppose the amendments in the Bill, which is against the farmers and democracy,” Ramesh said at a media conference held in Congress Bhawan here.

He alleged that BJD may back the Bill in lieu of BJP help in getting rid of the chit fund scam scar on it. “There may be a deal between the two parties to bail out each other,” he said. BJP and BJD are two sides of the same coin and a secret pact between the two parties is now an open secret, he added.

The former Union minister said that BJP introduced two ordinances to make major changes in the existing Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. There are guidelines in the law that the government would return the acquired land if it is lying unused for five years. However, there is no such system in the amended Bill, he said.

Similarly, the government attempted to amend Section 10(A) of the Act to expand sectors where assessment and consent will not be required. So the government or private individuals/companies will no longer need mandatory 80% consent for land acquisition, he argued.

The mandatory “consent” clause and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) will not be in the new Bill where ownership of land continues to be vested with the government, Ramesh rued.

Pointing out that even major allies of BJP like Shiv Sena, Akali Dal are opposing it, Ramesh urged the BJD not to vote for the Bill in Rajya Sabha. “I appeal to the BJD not to support the land Bill to be introduced in Rajya Sabha,” he said.

He said the Bill will not get past the Rajya Sabha hurdle as his Congress party along with several others, including the ruling BJP’s allies, are opposing the changes to the Bill proposed by the Union government.

“There may be a deal that BJD will give its support to land and mining bills and BJP will protect the regional party in the chit fund issue,” he said, adding that his party is not depending on the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD to defeat the Bill in Rajya Sabha.

“But here is an opportunity for him (Naveen) to stand up to support the anti-farmer and anti-democracy legislation. The chief minister, who is claiming to be working for farmers, must show his commitment,” said Ramesh.

“I request the Odisha chief minister to wake up and see what is happening. His friend Narendra Modi is destroying the Forest Rights Act, which is fundamental to the welfare of the tribals in the State,” he said.

Describing prime minister Modi as ‘Duryodhana’ of Mahabharata for refusing to give land to farmers, who, according to the Congress leader, are ‘Pandavas’, Ramesh mentioned five major reasons for his party’s opposition to the amendments.

However, countering the Congress leader’s remarks, BJD clarified that no deal has been made between the two parties. “BJD is committed to guard farmers’ interests. There is no link of chit fund scam with the Bill,” BJD spokesperson Samir Das said.

Similarly, BJP’s Suresh Pujari termed the Bill as pro-farmers. “Jayaram Ramesh should read the ordinances carefully. Land acquisition is necessary for people’s development,” he said.