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Parliamentary panel on land bill agrees to withdraw six key amendments including dealing with consent clause

Sources said all 11 BJP members in JCP on land bill moved amendments seeking to bring back social impact assessment & consent clause.

Aug 04, 2015, 12.46 AM IST
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Govt likely to accept Congress clauses in Land Bill
NEW DELHI: In a major climbdown, the Narendra Modi government has accepted six major amendments to the contentious land acquisition Bill as a result of which the National Democratic Alliance’s version of the law might eventually turn out to be not all that different from the 2013 Act that was passed by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance regime. Notably, the Modi government has agreed to retain the consent and social impact assessment (SIA) clauses in the same form as in the 2013 version of the land acquisition law.

Consequently, the exemption from the consent and SIA clauses proposed in the three ordinances issued by the Modi government for five types of acquisitions — defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects being implemented under the public-private partnership (PPP) mode — would no longer be available. “The whole Clause 10(A) that gave exemption to seeking consent of the land owners and social impact assessment for projects related to defence, building rural infrastructure, affordable housing for the poor, industrial corridors, public-private partnership and social infrastructure projects has been removed,” said a member of the joint committee of Parliament set up to discuss the land Bill.

The 30-member joint committee of Parliament dealing with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2015, on Monday took up a clauseby-clause reading of the Bill. “After deliberations, the government agreed to the demands of Congress, Shiv Sena, BJD, Left parties, AIADMK, BSP and others.

Parliamentary panel on land bill agrees to withdraw six key amendments including dealing with consent clause

Finally, there was unanimity on 12 of the 15 amendments that NDA’s Land Acquisition Bill sought to make. The government has agreed to six major changes in the land Bill,” a member of the committee told ET. Members of Trinamool Congress (TMC) boycotted Monday’s proceedings.

SETBACK FOR MODI GOVERNMENT

These developments mark a considerable setback for the Modi government, which had issued three ordinances seeking to exempt various categories of acquisitions from the consent and SIA clauses. Certain other types of acquisitions, such as for metro rail networks, highways and atomic energy were already exempt from the 2013 law. In all, 13 categories of land acquisitions will continue to be under sector-specific laws.

An amendment that said one kilometre on either side of an industrial corridor would be exempt from the consent and SIA clauses has been done away with, according to people familiar with the committee’s deliberations.

Another clause that said no prosecution of any government official who has committed an offence in the area of land acquisition will be permitted without prior sanction of the appropriate state or central government has also been dropped, sources said.

Also, the term ‘private entity’, proposed by the Modi government, has been dropped.

CONGRESS TO BACK LATEST VERSION

Congress sources said they would support this latest version of the Bill — which would still see some minor changes — as it is virtually the same as the 2013 Act. The last hearing of the committee is on Tuesday, where three more clauses will be discussed.

The SS Ahluwalia-led committee will discuss three more amendments proposed by the NDA’s land Bill on which no consensus could emerge at Monday’s meeting. This includes the amendment to remove a clause in the 2013 Act which states that land will have to be returned if the project for which it has been acquired is not initiated within five years after acquisition. The clause dealing with the account where the compensation for land acquisition shall be kept is also to be discussed on Tuesday.

The Opposition members of the committee worked as per a joint strategy chalked out under the leadership of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who had brought these parties together at a breakfast meeting at his residence last week. BJP ally Shiv Sena had joined this meeting as it is opposed to the changes being made to the 2013 Act by the Modi government. Congress, Left and other parties had decided to work together to defeat the government. As a result, the government was outnumbered, 16 to 13, in the joint committee.

TMC kept away from the clauseby-clause reading on Tuesday to protest not being given the mandatory 48-hour time between circulation of the draft that incorporated the changes to the land Bill and the meeting. The committee has been given time till August 7 to complete its proceedings and submit a report to Parliament.

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