Congress to vote against land bill if not referred to Standing Committee

09 March 2015

The opposition Congress party today said it would vote against the controversial Land Bill amendments in the Lok Sabha tomorrow if the government does not withdraw changes or refuses to send it to a Standing Committee, even as parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu asserted that available time may not permit referring the bill to Standing Committee.

Party president Sonia Gandhi chaired two meetings of the party's parliamentary affairs committee with all its 44 Lok Sabha MPs to discuss the strategy over the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill 2015.

The party is issuing a three-line whip to its members in the Lok Sabha to be present and vote against the measure.

"We will vote against the bill in the Lok Sabha if government fails to revert to the original bill of 2013 or sends the new bill to the Standing Committee for consideration," party whip in Lok Sabha K C Venugopal said after the meeting.

Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, "we will oppose the bill tooth and nail."
Indications of escalating confrontation between the government and the Congress over the measure were visible earlier in the day, when the main Opposition party accused Modi's "personal adamance" for the showdown.

AICC communication department in charge Randip Surjewala said that BJP leaders having reservations over the measure have become "mute spectator" due to "personal adamance" of Modi to push the bill in its present form.

Meanwhile, minister of parliamentary affairs M Venkaiah Naidu today said the government is willing to consider some further amendments to ensure minimum land acquisition based on the views and suggestion of the opposition parties. He was intervening in the debate on the proposed Right to Fair Remuneration and Transparency in Rehabilitation and Resttlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 in the Lok Sabha today.

Naidu observed that the government could consider deleting social infrastructure projects from the exempted categories, states coming out with land banks of vacant lands for acquistion for developoment projects, hassle free mechanism for redressal of grievances of land losers, mandatory employment for losers of livelihoods on account of land acquisition etc. He said that the minister of rural development Birendra Chowdhary, who is a farmer himself, would come forward with official amendments in this regard.

During his 40 minute intervention, Naidu asserted that the government's decision to issue an ordinance on land acquisition was not a unilateral one but was based on the suggestions and views of all the states, reflecting their collective yearning for an enabling legislation that will not stifle development. He referred extensively to the views and suggestions made by the states at a conference organised by the government in June 2014 and letters written by former Maharashtra chief minister Prithivraj Chavan and former union commerce minister Anand Sharma, expressing serious reservations about the adverse consequences of the Land Acquisition Act of 2013.

Naidu said that without compromising on the remuneration of four times the market value to be paid to land owners against acquisition of their land, the government has proposed some amendments to the Land Act of 2013 to facilitate development by adding only five more categories like defence and national security, infrastructure, including rural infrastructure, housing for the poor and affordable housing, industrial corridors, including PPP projects where the land ownership will be with the government to be exempted from the provisions of the Act of 2013. He further said that 13 more categories have been brought under the purview of the new Bill which would immensely benefit the farmers.

Naidu noted that experience has shown that it would be next impossible to complete infrastructure projects like laying of new railway lines in five years and hence, an amendment has been proposed in this regard.

He said the amendments have been proposed keeping in view the interests of rural people and farmers and infrastructure development will significantly enhance the land value benefitting farmers.

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