“The amendments made to the 2013 Land acquisition bill by Modi are all geared to help their Crony Capitalist friends and are very anti farmer. Make no mistake about it. If 50 years ago our PM Lal Bahadur Shastri had given a slogan of ” Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” the slogan of this government should be “Jai Adani, Jai Ambani”
Jairam Ramesh, former UPA Minister, minced no words in denouncing the changes sought to be brought into the Land Acquisition Bill of UPA passed in 2013. He also warned that Congress and many other parties like SP, BSP, Trinamool Congress, CPI, CPI (M), JDU, DMK and NC will fight these amendments tooth and nail and will not allow them to be passed in Rajya Sabha at any cost.
“Yes, we are a political party. We have not taken ‘sanyas’ or voluntary retirement or disappeared from the scene. We are still India’s first and largest political party – but let me make it clear. This opposition is not for political gain or just to frustrate their plans, we are against it on matter of principals. And we shall fight this new bill within and outside Parliament, in the villages and on the streets. We shall never allow it to be made a Law”
These were the scathing words used by the former Environment Minister Jairam in denouncing the new bill and sounded the bugle for a long fight ahead with the BJP in which he said ally parties of NDA like Shiv Sena were with them as also some constituents of the RSS.
Central Minister Nitin Gadkari had outlined some points yesterday while ‘educating’ and ‘informing’ citizens on the New bill and listed how it was beneficial for all. Jairam Ramesh said today that Gadkari had mouthed a pack of lies and taken credit for what was not authored by them in the first place.
Taking pot shots at the number of public meetings senior BJP leaders are holding to press for the bill, Jairam said ” some people think that if a lie is repeated ad infinitum it starts sounding like the truth. Let me outline the lies for you, he said.
- They are claiming that for land acquired in rural areas upto 4 times compensation will be given and for land in urban areas 2 times. This provision already exists in 2013 Bill. It is nothing new.
- Rehabilitation and Resettlement provisions for people displaced – these are also an integral part of the 2013 bill in toto.
- They claim that 13 areas were left out in the old bill e.g. land needed for railways etc. where more compensation is mooted. All this is already covered in section 105 of the old bill.
- Gadkari claims that irrigation projects cannot be completed unless new bill is passed. Land for irrigation projects undertaken by the government(s) can already be acquired under present bill. Does Gadkari want to outsource these projects to private players for which he wants amendments? Public consent for govt. projects is not required.
- Modi and Gadkari claim that defense projects need fast track clearance and land for them cannot be acquired under provisions of present law. This is not true- Defense is already covered in areas which are exempt from getting public consent.
Then Mr. Ramesh outlined the points on which Congress and others are opposing the new bill. These, he pointed out, are the amendments that are seeking to weaken the present bill :
- The present (2013 Bill) does not allow land for private or PPP ( public private partnership) projects to be acquired without local consent. For private projects 80% locals need to give permission, for PPP 70% are needed. Modi wants this condition removed.
- As per the 2013 bill, Social Impact Assessment was mandatory before acquiring large parcels of land for any project. As per the bill, the maximum time to be taken for an Assessment was to be six months. This provision was made so injustice was not done to local sentiment and their genuine grievances addressed. The new bill seeks to do away with Social Impact Assessment altogether saying ‘people will never agree for their lands to be taken away’.
- The 2013 Bill had a clause that if land acquired was not used for the stated purpose within 5 years, it was to be returned to the original owners. Now this clause is sought to be removed – they can take 10 years, 15 years or an indefinite time span. No one can challenge it.
- Industrial corridors between any two cities ( between Nagpur and Mumbai for instance) were to be created in 2013 Bill for setting up of local industries based on raw material available in situ. Now they want 1 Km land on either side of the corridor to also be acquired. Why? Just look at the Delhi – Agra Yamuna Expressway and you will get the reply. It is lined with ‘Nagars’ ( gated colonies on both sides). So they want to oblige developers and builders and allow them to build housing colonies by the sides of the corridor. That much is abundantly clear.
- There was a clause in the 2013 bill where by people whose lands had been acquired way back in 1894 and a pittance had been offered as compensation had not accepted it. If they approach the govt. with papers, they will be paid now at 4 times the price as per provisions for others. This clause has been removed and old timers have no recourse to get value for lands they lost. BJP has shut that door by a retrospective clause. (Section 24).
Ramesh told the press people that Congress President Sonia Gandhi and he himself had written letters to Gadkari pointing out their misgivings. Instead of giving replies Gadkari is politicizing the issue and going to the press with it, he said.
He also pointed out that the amendments had been brought in without any debate or consultation with other parties but just clamped down. It was a dictatorial way of doing things.UPA had taken two years to consult with everyone; a standing committee had been formed. Even BJP had given its views which were incorporated.
‘They’ ( the new government) do not want to listen to local people, courts, NGOs or even tribals who are going to be affected. If they succeed, they would have brought in a most illiberal democracy in India. Ramesh warned. Damage such rampant power can do is immense. Kerala is a classic example. This state was a rice producer, since it is a staple diet of local people. Now so much of its agricultural land has been diverted to other uses that it has to buy rice from Punjab and Haryana to satisfy the demand.
“India is a agri-land deficient country already. We need to protect irrigated land which can take 2-3 crops annually. But this was the land that was taken in Singrur, in Nandigram and locals are still agitating.”
The only people who are sought to be placated and wooed by these measures are industrialists and investors. That is Modi’s real ‘Mann ki bat’ Ramesh warned.