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BJP withdraws changes, to stick with UPA's 2013 land bill

August 03, 2015 19:19 IST

In a climbdown, the Bharatiya Janata Party has agreed to bring back the key provisions of United Progressive Alliance land law including the ones on consent clause and social impact assessment and drop controversial amendments brought by the Narendra Modi government in December last year through an ordinance.

Sources said all the 11 BJP members in the Joint Committee of Parliament on land bill on Monday moved amendments seeking to bring back the social impact assessment and consent clause.

With the BJP retracting from its previous position, there is likelihood that the panel headed by BJP MP S S Ahluwalia will come out with a consensus report by August 7.

“It’s as good as our own Act of 2013,” a Congress member of the committee said after the meeting expressing total agreement with the amendments moved by the ruling BJP.

Trinamool Congress members Derek O’Brien and Kalyan Banerjee walked out of the meeting stating that the amendments were circulated on Monday morning and they had little time to study.

Six of the amendments were discussed on Monday on which there was a consensus.

Out of the total 15 amendments in the National Democratic Alliance bill, nine were substantial in nature that have been opposed by Congress and a number of Opposition parties.

Out of these nine, six including the provisions dealing with consent clause, social impact assessment, replacing the term private company with private entity were discussed on Monday and a consensus has emerged on them, Congress members claimed.

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015, seeks to amend various provisions of the 2013 land law. It also seeks to replace an ordinance brought by the government last December and promulgated thrice since then.

The NDA Bill enabled the government to exempt five categories of projects from the requirements of social impact assessment, restrictions on acquisition of multi-cropped land and consent for private projects and public private partnerships projects.

The five categories of projects it sought to exempt are defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors, and infrastructure including PPPs where government owns the land.

The UPA Act deemed the head of a government department guilty for an offence by the department. The Bill removed this, and added the requirement of prior sanction to prosecute a government employee.

The Act would apply retrospectively, if an award had been made five years earlier and compensation had not been paid or possession not taken. The bill exempts any period when a court has given a stay on the acquisition while computing the five year period.

The 2013 Act required consent of 70 per cent of landholders for PPP projects, and 80 per cent for private projects. The NDA bill did away with this requirement.

Ever since the government brought the Ordinance, the proposed changes were vociferously opposed by not only Opposition parties but even NDA allies like Shiv Sena and Akali Dal besides key affiliates of RSS.

The government had to promulgate the Ordinance on three occasions as it faced a number crunch in Rajya Sabha to pass the bill.

The panel had earlier in the day got an extension of four more days to submit its report on the controversial legislation.

At a recent meeting of the Committee, it was decided to seek two more days’ extension till August 5 to submit its report. But since the panel could not meet for two days following the demise of former President A P J Abdul Kalam, it was decided to seek the extension till August 7.

A motion seeking a fresh extension was moved by committee chairman S S Ahluwalia of BJP in Lok Sabha, amid din created by Congress members over Lalit Modi controversy and Vyapam scam issues.

The deadline for submission of the report had earlier been extended till August 3.

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