Modi govt to dilute land bill to secure passage in Lok Sabha

The Narendra Modi government at the centre has proposed nine amendments to the amended land acquisition bill, in a bid to break a political deadlock over reforms that would make it easier for corporates to buy land, and, instead, make it more farmer friendly.

In a sign that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ability to steer his business-friendly agenda through Parliament is waning, the government proposed to make the bill more farmer friendly, in a bid to blunt opposition to the bill.

At the same time, parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu today claimed that all NDA partners will vote for the bill despite initial opposition from the Shiv Sena.

Amidst discussion on the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill 2015, in the Lok Sabha today, the government is reported to have proposed nine amendments to the amended land bill, in a bid to placate the opposition Congress party and secure passage of a law that would replace an ordinance promulgated earlier.

These include an exemption to social infrastructure projects in public-private partnership (PPP) model.

Rural development minister Chaudhary Birender Singh is reported to have on Monday indicated his willingness to incorporate more changes into the land acquisition bill in order to address the concerns raised by opposition parties.

The government had already agreed to make at least six amendments in the land bill, according to reports.

Singh said the government had brought amendments in the land bill after consultations with political parties, farmer organisations and various other stakeholders, adding that it was open to more suggestions, which would be beneficial to the farmers and the agriculture sector.

The government proposed to exclude social infrastructure projects from the exempted categories and to restrict acquisition of land within one km of both sides of railway tracks and highways, according to reports.

The government also moved amendment for states creating land banks of vacant lands for acquisition for development projects. The amendment provides for hassle-free mechanism for redressal of grievances of land loser and proposes mandatory employment for even farm labourers on account of land acquisition.

The minister, however, accused the opposition of misinforming the public, especially the farmers that the passage of the bill will lead to wholesale land acquisition by the private investors with government backing.

''How long will you scare farmers that all their land will be stolen? How long will you stifle the farmers' progress?

"No acquisition will be transferred to private persons. All will be in government's good hands," said Birender Singh, adding that the government had only proposed necessary amendments to the bill.

"We started out with 8 amendments to the 2013 law. ''You have not defined industrial corridors, we were told. This has been rectified," said Singh.

"Infrastructure does not mean only private components. Infrastructure means irrigation, roads, other agricultural benefits."

In the 14 months since the passing of the Act, very few states have formed any rules regarding acquisition, he pointed out.

Meanwhile, parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu is reported to have talked to leaders of all the NDA allies, who expressed solidarity with the government on the land bill.

Naidu, the reports said, also talked to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and sought his cooperation in this regard. Thackeray told Naidu that his party would support the bill and vote for it in Lok Sabha, the sources added.

Senior Akali Dal leader Prem Singh Chandumajra, is also reported to have said, "Our party is on board and will support the bill as the government has agreed to 90 per cent of our amendments. We will vote in favour of the Bill."

Finance minister Arun Jaitley along with Naidu and rural development minister Birender Singh briefed the NDA allies on the bill and the amendments to be moved by the government to address the concerns raised over it.