Farmers at the launch of their Satyagraha Yatra against Land Acquisition Bill in Palwal, Haryana, Feb. 20. (Press Trust of India)
The Government today gave fresh signals of making changes in the controversial Land Bill to accommodate farmers’ interest as yet another NDA constituent LJP joined others in expressing reservations over the provisions of the legislation. The opposition kept up its pressure by walking out of Lok Sabha while Congress hit the streets in Delhi opposing the land bill and threatened to take the protests across the country. Interestingly, missing from all the action was Congress VP Rahul Gandhi, who was also one of the leaders to oppose it in the first place. Rahul was nowhere to be found in Delhi, while Prime Minister Modi is still not ready to make major changes to the bill. A Press Trust of India report.
After Shiv Sena, the LJSP headed by Ram Vilas Paswan which is part of Modi Government today voiced concerns over some of the provisions of the law and demanded more clarity from the Government.
Party MP Chirag Paswan said LJP was concerned about provisions like doing away with the consent of farmers for acquiring their land in the ordinance brought by Modi Government.
“We have objections over some measures. There are questions about the need of doing away with farmers’ consent. They also will have no right to move court,” he told reporters.
With Government facing pressure from within and outside, two senior ministers today said the Government was ready to deliberate on opposition suggestions and go extra mile to prevent any injustice to farmers.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said in Lok Sabha,”If there are some lacunae and drawbacks in the Land Acquisition Act, we are ready to deliberate on them. We will not let any injustice happen to farmers. We are ready to go the extra miles to strengthen the hands of farmers.”
Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari told media that Government is open to accepting good suggestions offered by other parties.
“If people have some opinion on social impact assessment or consent clauses, we are willing to hear them,” he said.
Meanwhile, sources said five senior ministers have been asked to talk to parties across spectrum to arrive at a consensus on changes that could be made in the bill.
There were reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not in favor of changes but there was no confirmation of such a view.
A senior minister said that changes, if any, could be not drastic in nature but cosmetic.
Akali Dal, another ally of BJP, said it had issues with provisions relating to social impact assessment in case of large tracts of land to be acquired and consent of the majority of farmers to be taken before acquisition.
Naresh Gujral said Akali Dal has made its views clear to the government that interests of farmers need to be taken while creation of jobs and development was also necessary.
The government has favorably reacted to Akali Dal suggestions, he said.
Akali Dal leaders including Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal are in the capital to discuss the issue within and finalize its strategy.
Opposition from within grew over the land acquisition law with key ally Shiv Sena opposing the Bill in its present form while government indicated that there could be amendments to accommodate concerns of farmers.
Hectic consultations within and outside the government continued day long as Rural Development Minister Birender Singh tabled the land acquisition bill in the Lok Sabha amidst walkout by almost the entire opposition.
The frenetic activities took place on a day Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal joined Anna Hazare in the agitation against the bill which the farmers say should have provisions for 70 percent consent from land owners for projects and making the social impact assessment mandatory.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a number of ministers gave enough signals to indicate that the exercise of taking note of farmers’ concerns was on and changes may be incorporated in the bill.
At the meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Party Modi made it clear that there was no going back on the law but said government was open to suggestions in the interest of farmers.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told Rajya Sabha that government was keen to hold discussions with all parties to find a way out while farmer representatives who met Home Minister Rajnath Singh claimed that government will keep in mind their concerns while enacting the law.