The government today sought to mollify agitators rallying against the land acquisition ordinance saying even farmers whose land was acquired for critical projects like atomic energy, petroleum and highways will get compensation, even as the law is widely seen as a route to reopen forcible acquisition of land.
The government, however, only touched the monetary compensation part and tried to skirt the more important issue of interests of farmers and livelihood losses, issues that would be "completely eliminated" if the ordinance becomes law, according to the agitators, including social activist Anna Hazare, the Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal as also the opposition Congress party.
The government's defence of the legislation comes after Anna Hazare today launched a two-day agitation against the controversial land acquisition ordinance in New Delhi's Jantar Mantar, coinciding with the commencement of the budget session of Parliament.
"By bringing this ordinance, we have done something which would benefit all the farmers," environment minister Prakash Javadekar said.
He said, in order to ensure all farmers get compensated for loss of land, the new law incorporates 13 provisions (introduced by former Minister Jairam Ramesh), which were not under the purview of the previous law.
Incidentally, the President's address to the joint session of Parliament also spoke greatly of the importance the government attaches to safeguarding the interest of farmers and families affected by land acquisition.
''While taking utmost care to protect the interest of farmers, including their compensation entitlements, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act has been suitably refined to minimise certain procedural difficulties in acquisition of land inevitably required for critical public projects of infrastructure and for creation of basic amenities like rural housing, schools and hospitals, particularly in remote areas.
''Kisan is the sentinel of our food security. `Annadaata Sukhibhava' has been one of our fundamental civilisational values. My government attaches enormous importance to the wellbeing of farmers. This will need value-added agriculture, market reform, use of technology and improving productivity in areas with untapped potential,'' he said.
He noted that the year 2015 has been designated as International Year of Soils. ''In view of the critical role of soil for productivity and farm output, a Soil Health Card Scheme has been launched. Price stabilisation fund with a corpus of Rs500 crore has been set up for perishable commodities.
Javadekar said to address the irrigation requirements of every village in an effective and sustainable manner, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, is being launched. Extension programmes have been devised targeting resource-poor, small and marginal farmers, particularly focusing on organic farming and green house technology. Rashtriya Gokul Mission has been launched with the objective of conserving and developing indigenous cattle breeds,'' the President stated in his address.
Javadekar said the changes make rehabilitation and resettlement and compensation provisions applicable to laws including Electricity Act, Resettlement of Displaced Persons Act, National Highways Act, Metro Rail Act, the Atomic Energy Act, the Indian Tramways Act, the Railways Act, the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act and the Damodar Valley Corporation Act.
"The benefits of land acquisition to farmers would be more compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement in a better way. These provisions were under the purview of these 13 Acts," Javadekar said.
The minister, however, replied in the negative to queries on whether the government was ready to bring in changes to the Act.