Land bill is a test of Centre’s priorities

Modi government insists on re-issuing an ordinance that failed to click in Parliament

The government’s failure to persuade its political opponents in Parliament on the sensitive issue of acquiring land from farmers — and this includes BJP’s oldest ally, Shiv Sena, which declined to vote in favour of the passage of the bill in the Lok Sabha — is not leading to caution and the desire for consensus-building but to the path of recklessness and political confrontation. This is a pity.

Such an orientation is apt to cause harm to the country by bringing about a divisive atmosphere, as well as serious uncertainties in the matter of land acquisition on terms that are equitable to cultivators without being inimical to the cause of industrialisation.

The ordinance on land acquisition brought by the Modi dispensation in December last year, which turned on its head the 2013 law passed by the then UPA government with the support of the BJP and other parties in Parliament after a thorough and extended debate in the national legislature and outside, has failed to meet the approval of Parliament.

After passing muster in LS, where the government enjoys a majority, it became evident that the bill to convert the ordinance into law will not find acceptance in RS. The ordinance will lapse on April 5 if it doesn’t meet with parliamentary approval by that date. Since that is very likely, the government on Friday decided to prorogue Rajya Sabha. The clearest implication of this is that the Modi government insists on re-issuing an ordinance that failed to click in Parliament the first time round.

In its second incarnation, the ordinance is not likely to be any different from the original which had done away with two crucial features that were at the heart of the 2013 law — taking the consent of farmers whose lands were to be alienated, and assessing the social impact of the alienation, an aspect which is crucial to the exercise of formulating rehabilitation packages.

Before affixing his signature to a rehashed version of the earlier ordinance, President Pranab Mukherjee will be entitled to ask how the government proposes to make it acceptable to Parliament in the second essay when even partners of the ruling alliance are beginning to express misgivings. Indeed, Union agriculture minister Birender Singh has publicly counselled not to do away with farmers’ consent.

All sides must remember that the interests of agriculture and industry needs to be balanced without letting politics push outcomes.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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