Members in the Lok Sabha, on Tuesday, condemned the "forcible" acquisition of land in Uttar Pradesh and firing on protesting farmers prompting the government to state that a comprehensive bill in this regard would be brought in Parliament at the earliest.
The Bharatiya Janata Party and Samajwadi Party members trooped into the well as soon as the house convened and resorted to sloganeering on the alleged firing on farmers in Aligarh and Mathura forcing Speaker Meira Kumar to allow an impromptu discussion on the issue. Members across party lines, barring the Bahujan Samaj Party which runs the government in Uttar Pradesh, criticised the policy of acquiring land forcibly from farmers at throwaway prices for building the Yamuna Expressway and a private township and demanded action against officers who ordered the firing on the protestors.
At the end of 55-minute discussion, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee assured the House that a "comprehensive" bill on land acquisition and rehabilitation was being considered by a Group of Ministers headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. "We are considering to bring it (to Parliament) at the earliest... we have to ensure that interests of our farmers are not jeopardised. They play an important role in ensuring food security," he said. Mukherjee said Home Minister P Chidambaram was in touch with the Uttar Pradesh government to ascertain facts about Saturday's firing incident. "I have been told that talks were on till late evening yesterday for an amicable solution and possibly it will be done," he said adding that he would keep the House informed.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav wanted to know why a report of the firing incident was not filed by the state police. Former BJP president Rajnath Singh claimed that farmers were coerced by state government officials into accepting an agreement on land acquisition. Farmers in the region have been agitating for the past few weeks over acquisition of land for building the Noida-Agra Yamuna Expressway and a township being developed by a private infrastructure company. He wanted a new law on land acquisition to be enacted by the government. Singh also sought to know why the bill in this regard was allowed to lapse in the previous Lok Sabha.
Rajnath Singh also wanted the new Bill to include a provision preventing acquisition of fertile land. Dara Singh Chauhan congratulated farmers of Aligarh and Mathura for "hooting away" the BJP, SP and RLD leaders who had gone to "express solidarity" with the agitating farmers. He said a rate of Rs 570 per sq mtr was agreed upon for acquiring the land of farmers for the project which was 20 per cent more than the previously agreed rates. Chauhan said Rs 10 lakh have been paid to next of kin of every person killed in the firing incident and Rs two lakh to each of the injured.
Janata Dal-United chief Sharad Yadav termed the firing on agitating farmers as a "shameful act". He expressed concern over land being acquired under the "garb" of setting up Special Economic Zones. He also voiced concern over acquisition of fertile land for various infrastructure projects and demanded a statement from the government in this regard. Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda condemned the "brutal killing of farmers" by the state police and demanded immediate arrest of officers who ordered firing on the protestors. Deve Gowda wanted a threadbare discussion on the issue in the Lok Sabha and expressed concern over the "wastage of time" of the House on protests over the issue. He pointed out that five days of Parliament were completely wasted on various issues and wanted better coordination among the Treasury and Opposition benches on the functioning of the House.
Jagdambika Pal of the Congress wanted the UP government to stop acquisition of land on behalf of private developers. Jayant Chaudhary of the Rashtriya Lok Dal accused the Uttar Pradesh government of imposing restrictions on the movement of people's representatives in the area. Chaudhary, who represents Mathura in the Lok Sabha, said state government officials had informed him that his entry was banned in Aligarh. He wanted the new law to clearly define the public purpose for which the land was being acquired. Chaudhary said farmers will not have any problem if land was being used for defence or other strategic purposes. "Certainly, building a Formula One track or private townships do not fit in the definition of public purpose," he said. He claimed that the state officials were pressurising the farmers into accepting the land deal offered by them.
Sudip Bandopadhyay of the Trinamool Congress wanted a new law on land acquisition to replace the "antiquated" laws enacted during the British Rule. He also wanted the land acquisition rate to be fixed after reaching a mutual understanding between the developer and the farmers and the settlement should also include a clause on job guarantee for a member of the family whose land was being acquired. He wanted the new land acquisition law "for the farmers, of the farmers and by the farmers." Bandopadhyay said the Special Economic Zone had not made any positive contribution to the development of the country.
Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal demanded action under Section 302 IPC (punishment for murder) against those officers who ordered the firing at the protestors. Recalling an earlier discussion in the house on the SEZ policy, he said it was decided that government will not interfere with private industry when they are setting up any project but this is not happening.
Basudeb Acharia of the Communist Party of India-Marxist said farmers demanding right prices for their land in Mathura and Aligarh did not get compensation but instead had to face bullets. "In the name of SEZ, thousands of acres of land is being snatched from farmers and being given to the industry," he said. Joining them, Anant Geete of the Shiv Sena raised the issue of land acquisition for RIL's SEZ in Raigad district in Maharashtra.
Nama Nageshwara Rao of the Telegu Desam Party, Prabodh Panda of the Communist Party of India and M Thambidurai of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam also spoke on the issue.