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Arun Jaitley to defend Land Acquisition Bill in Rajya Sabha today

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New Delhi: Amid stiff resistance from a united Opposition, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will make a strong defence of the government’s proposed Land Acquisition Ordinance in Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
While the Opposition has termed the proposed land reforms law as ‘anti-farmer and anti- poor’, NDA allies too have cautioned the BJP government to amend the Land Acquisition Bill.

The sources, however, say that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not going to allow major amendments in one of his key reforms.

Under attack from the Opposition and its allies, the government yesterday said that it was “open minded” to suggestions but added that the measure was “farmer friendly”.

After the Shiv Sena, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) said yesterday that it has apprehensions over the bill.

“We have objections over some measures. There are questions about the need of doing away with farmers’ consent. They also will have no right to move court,” LJP MP Chirag Paswan told reporters here after a meeting, attended by six LJP MPs, where the bill was discussed.

The Shiv Sena has already made its Opposition clear that it will “not support any law that is against the interest of farmers”.

Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant questioned government’s explanation about the legislation and said, “When there will be no land left then what is the point of PM irrigation scheme? The farmers are scared that the government will take away their land. This needs to be addressed. We cannot make farmers unhappy.”

He made the comment while participating in the discussion on motion of thanks to the President’s speech.

Another key BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has also expressed reservations towards the bill, which is facing a stiff opposition from political parties, farmers and social groups.

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, however, defended the law and blamed the opposition for spreading misinformation on the bill.

Addressing a press conference in the parliament house here, Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said the ordinance had to be brought before Dec 31.

The minister added that the land that would be acquired will be used for rural infrastructure projects like irrigation and roads, which will help the rural population.

Gadkari also said the central government did not intend to acquire any land for the private sector or corporates.

“Even the industrial corridor the ordinance talks about will not be more than 2 km wide, and will host agro-processing industries. It will help farmers,” he said.

“It is a misunderstanding that we will acquire land for private sector. The projects which will be in PPP mode (Public-Private Partnership) will be ultimately owned by government,” Gadkari said.

He added, “The industrialist today does not want the government acquired land. They prefer buying the land. The land that will be acquired under this law will be used for public purposes.”

Asked if the government would consider suggestion made by Opposition parties, Gadkari said, “We are open minded to suggestions.”

Activist Anna Hazare, who is spearheading an agitation against amendments in the act, rubbished the government’s claim that these were more “effective” and “farmer-friendly”, saying it was trying to mislead the people.

“The government is more worried about the industrialists and not about farmers. The country has woken up now. These people will also take irrigated land and give it to the industrialists,” Hazare said.

Having vociferously protested against the land ordinance for the last two days, activists are now gearing up for a massive showdown with the government at district and state levels.

“We are beginning a district level movement from next week against the land bill,” said Gandhian activist PV Rajagopal.

He said that the focus would now be on mobilisation and training of youth for a final showdown in 2019, a year which coincides with the completion of five-year term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government.

“The government may not be able to ignore this and engage us in a dialogue process,” he added.

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