Land Bill: Explain national security, affordable housing, ask JPC members
New Delhi: Seeking to corner the government, Opposition members of the parliamentary panel examining the controversial land acquisition bill today sought clarity on terms like national security and affordable housing which are exempted from the consent clause saying ambiguity could lead to misuse of provisions.
At the second meeting of the Joint Committee of Parliament on land acquisition bill, several Opposition members insisted on the definition of projects related to 'national security' as they felt that the term could hasumitrave separate meaning for the Home and the Defence ministries.
They also wanted to know what exactly 'affordable housing' means. They said ambiguity in sectors granted exemption from consent clause could lead to misuse of the provisions.
Industrial corridors, public-private partnership projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and national security related projects are exempted from consent clause in the ordinance re-promulgated recently.
They said the state governments should also be asked for their views on the definition of these categories as land acquisition is mainly a state subject and clause 10 (A) of the ordinance would be used by them on the issue of consent.
Meanwhile, committee chairman S S Ahluwalia (BJP) informed the members that he has sought the permission of Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to write to state chief secretaries seeking state governments' views on the ordinance.
Some members demanded an explanation from the government on difference between the terms 'private company' and 'private entity', claiming the provisions in the amended Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 can be misused to help corporates.
During the course of the meeting, members from Congress and CPI-M slammed the government for re-promulgating the ordinance, saying if the government has decided to press for the same clauses then the committee report will be of little value.
At this, Ahluwalia said while government has re-promulgated the ordinance for continuity, the role of the panel will not be diminished as it has been created by Parliament.
Certain members, including those from Congress, said several Union ministers are speaking on the land acquisition bill but their views lack unanimity. They pointed out that while some are open to amending the bill replacing the ordinance pending in Parliament, others have opposed any changes.
At the meeting, members agreed that there was no need to debate on the entire bill but only the amendments made to the 2013 Act by the ordinance.
When the committee was discussing on the individuals and organisations to be called, Digvijay Singh (Cong) suggested that RSS affiliates like Bharatiya Kisan Sangh and Swadeshi Jagran Manch -- who have opposed the ordinance -- should also be called. Some members suggested that activists like Medha Pathkar cannot be left out.
On the demands of members like Kalyan Banerjee (Trinamool Congress), Ahluwalia agreed to extend the date of receiving memoranda on the bill. The date, which ended today, has now been extended till June 15. Of the 300 memoranda received by the panel, 75 have been circulated to members.
The committee also discussed the resource persons, ministries and departments which need to be called while examining the measure.
Some members said tomorrow's meeting should be called off as the panel is yet to take a call on whom to call as witness. When Ahluwalia said he has certain names for tomorrow, Banerjee said if the chairman was predetermined to call people, then the meeting should be held.