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Land Acquisition Bill to be tabled in Lok Sabha today, Opposition demands debate

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New Delhi: Under pressure from all quarters the Narendra Modi government will introduce the controversial Land Acquisition Amendment Bill 2015 to replace the contentious ordinance in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
However, the move is expected to trigger protests among the Opposition as it has demanded a debate on the issue. As per report, Congress leader Anand Sharma has given notice for suspension of Question Hour in Rajya Sabha today. Other opposition parties like TMC and JD(U) have also pressed for a debate on the issue.

“We are happy that other parties have accepted that the land acquisition ordinance is not right for the farmers,” Derek O’Brien of the TMC was quoted as saying.

The Opposition has remained firm that the ordinance, along with five more, would not be allowed to go through Parliament. These ordinances would expire on March 20, if not passed during this Budget Session.

President Pranab Mukherjee had on Monday set the tone for the government to push for the tweaked land law amid resistance from the Opposition and rights groups, prompting the BJP to discuss ways to get the controversial legislation passed in Parliament.

The law has been suitably refined to protect farmers’ interests during land acquisition for crucial public projects, Mukherjee told a joint sitting of Parliament that launched the budget session.

“My government attaches paramount importance to safeguard the interest of farmers and families affected by land acquisition,” the President said, trying to allay fears the land act would benefit only industries without a consent clause from landowners which the Modi government had enacted through an ordinance.

The ruling coalition, which is due to introduce the bill to replace the land ordinance in Lok Sabha, t enjoys a brute majority but the problem lie in Rajya Sabha.

Rural development minister Chaudhary Birender Singh will introduce the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015.

It will replace the ordinance promulgated by the government in December last year, which had brought changes in the earlier bill passed in 2013 by the UPA government.

The government had promulgated the ordinance making significant changes in the land act including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas — industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.

Party chief Sonia Gandhi said the President’s speech had nothing new but was a rehash of UPA policies.

The ruling BJP also has its hands full after rights activist Anna Hazare on Monday started a protest against the “anti-farmer” land law.

He got support from old associates Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, the chief minister of Delhi and his deputy whose Aam Aadmi Party had routed the BJP in the national capital’s assembly polls. They will join Hazare in his protest on Tuesday.

“This is land grab by the government … This is what the British used to do. To cater to industrialists, how can you betray farmers?” Hazare said before his dharna at Jantar Mantar.

Given the heat generated by the land law before the NDA government’s presents its first full-year budget on February 28, fear mounted within the BJP of a possible Parliament washout in the face of the Opposition’s belligerent stand.

Barring Prime Minister Modi, top BJP leaders closeted on Monday evening to see if the bill to be place before Lok Sabha could be further refined to pacify the protesters.

There were hints that the government might consider the demands when Parliament debates the bill.

The prime objection to the land acquisition ordinance has been that it removed the need for written consent from 70% of landowners for joint public-private projects.

To make matters worse, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) has also raised objection to the ordinance, seeing in it a reason for the BJP’s drubbing in Delhi.

The government is racing against time to convert the six ordinances into bills in the first part of the Budget session, which comes to an end on March 20.

The government will also introduce a bill in Lok Sabha to amend the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, which will replace the ordinance promulgated on the issue recently.

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