Lok Sabha clears land bill, Congress walks out

The amended land acquisition of the UPA's land acquisition bill sailed through the Lok Sabha today, although with 11 amendments to the amended bill, ending two days of discussion and partly addressing concerns of the opposition.

The Congress, however, staged a walkout as the ruling party neither agree to a single amendment as suggested by the party nor sent the bill to the parliamentary Standing Committee as suggested by it.

"Government has decided to bring 11 official amendments such as limiting the industrial corridor to one kilometre on both the sides of the highways and railway lines, compulsory employment to one member of the affected family of farm labourers, hearing and redressal of grievances at the district level, acquisition of bare minimum of land," government sources said.

Although BJP leaders had earlier claimed that all NDA members are on board on the land bill, only Akali Dal was brought around. The Shiv Sena, which had opposed certain provisions of the bill, did not vote.

Earlier in the day, finance minister Arun Jaitley, parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu and rural development minister Chaudhary Birender Singh had briefed NDA leaders on the land bill and the amendments moved by the government to address their concerns.

The bill will now go to the upper House, the Rajya Sabha, where the government is in a minority and will struggle to have it passed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had overreached to regional parties like the Biju Janata Dal towards that end. Members of BJD walked out today. A similar walkout in the Rajya Sabha will help the government.

The amendments proposed by the government also incorporate feedback from farmers' organisations and activists who have opposed its land reforms.

The amendments include a dilution of the consent clause - the government's land ordinance or emergency executive order that the bill seeks to ratify, exempted projects in defence, rural electrification, rural housing and industrial corridors from provisions of the 2013 law, requiring 80 per cent of affected landowners to give their consent to a deal.

The other major sticking point, the scrapping of the need for companies to conduct a social impact study for such projects, has also been reviewed.

"Social Impact Assessment is left to the state government, if they want they may go with it," said Rao Birendra Singh in an intervention. Earlier while moving the bill, he had told the Opposition, "We are ready to accept your suggestions if those are in the interest of farmers."

The government says the proposed land reforms balance the rights of farmers with the urgent need to provide land for projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Failure to pass the law in both houses would lead the executive order or ordinance, to lapse when the current session of Parliament ends.