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Opposition seeks to drive govt into a corner in JPC on Land Bill

PTI 08 June 2015, 9:15
PTI

New Delhi: Having forced the Modi government to refer the contentious land bill to a Joint Parliamentary Committee, the Opposition has now demanded that it come out with details of acquisitions made for various projects since promulgation of the land ordinance for the first time in December last year.

Failing to convert the Land Acquisition Bill into an Act due to the number crunch in Rajya Sabha, government had recently re-promulgated the land ordinance for the third time even as the JPC deliberated on the contentious legislation at length for the first time on May 29.

The re-promulgation came in for sharp criticism from the opposition which termed it as an "insult" to Parliament as JPC had been constituted to go into the vexed bill.

The government had, however, insisted that the measure was necessary for acquisition of land for crucial projects pending enactment of a new law, replacing the 2013 Act passed when UPA was in power. While defending its action, government had noted some state governments had also expressed their reservations to the 2013 law as acquiring land under it was difficult.

Latching on to the government's claim that acquiring land was a difficult task without the amendments brought by it, B Mahtab of BJD has sought details of the land acquired since the ordinance was first issued in December 2014, sources close to the development said.

In a bid to counter the government's claim that amendments were necessary to set up vital projects related to national security, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh has asked for details of such security projects cleared by the Modi dispensation since the promulgation of the ordinance for the first time.

The first meeting of the JPC saw a number of Opposition members raising questions over the rationale behind the government changing crucial provisions of the 2013 law.

Expressing dissatisfaction over the government's arguments in favour of the new bill, the members demanded a "composite" inter-ministerial reply on the issue.

At the meeting, chaired by BJP's S S Ahluwalia, the Rural Development Ministry and Legislative department in the Law Ministry had made a presentation on the amendments made to

The Right To Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

Members from the opposition parties like Congress, BJD, TMC and the Left had questioned the rationale of doing away with the consent clause and social impact assessment while acquiring land.

As the government cited objections by states to some provisions of the 2013 law enacted by UPA, the members demanded that responses of the states be obtained in writing, which was agreed upon.

The replies from state governments will be collated and circulated among members when the committee meets again on Monday.

During the presentation, some members had also sought more clarity on land acquisition for industrial corridors.

Various ministries, including Rural Development Ministry and Law Ministry were told to furnish a joint reply by June 5.

While the 2013 law required consent of 80 per cent of land owners to be obtained for private projects and 70 per cent for PPP projects, the present bill exempts five categories from its purview.

These include defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects including public private partnership (PPP) projects where the government owns the land.

The 2013 Act also required a social impact assessment to be conducted to identify affected families and calculate the social impact of the project before acquisition of land. This provision has also been done away with.

The LARR Act, 2013 provided for land to be returned to the original owners or to the land bank if it remained unutilised for five years after acquisition.

The new ordinance states that the period after which unutilised land will need to be returned will be five years, or any period specified at the time of setting up the project, whichever is later.