New Delhi: Ruckus erupted in Parliament on the second day of budget session as Opposition parties upped the ante against the government over a contentious land bill.
The Narendra Modi government will introduce the land acquisition amendment bill 2015 to replace the ordinance in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
Before that, finance minister Arun Jaitley invoked the first Nehru government and said it introduced 77 oridinances, amid an uproar triggered by the Opposition in Rajya Sabha.
“Ordinances are bypassing Parliament is not a valid argument,” he said.
The Opposition has remained firm that the ordinance, along with five more, would not be allowed to go through Parliament. These ordinances would expire on March 20, if not passed during this budget session.
President Pranab Mukherjee had set the tone for the government to push for the tweaked land law on Monday amid resistance from the Opposition and rights groups, prompting the BJP to discuss ways to get the controversial legislation passed in Parliament.
The law has been suitably refined to protect farmers’ interests during land acquisition for crucial public projects, Mukherjee told a joint sitting of Parliament that launched the budget session.
“My government attaches paramount importance to safeguard the interest of farmers and families affected by land acquisition,” the President said, trying to allay fears the land act would benefit only industries without a consent clause from landowners which the Modi government had enacted through an ordinance.
The ruling coalition would introduce the bill to replace the land ordinance in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, where it enjoys a brute majority but the problem lie in Rajya Sabha.
Rural development minister Chaudhary Birender Singh will introduce the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015.
It will replace the ordinance promulgated by the government in December last year, which had brought changes in the earlier bill passed in 2013 by the UPA government.
The government had promulgated the ordinance making significant changes in the land act including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas — industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.
The Congress has already given a notice for suspension of question hour in the Upper House to discuss the ordinance. Party chief Sonia Gandhi said the President’s speech had nothing new but was a rehash of UPA policies.
The ruling BJP also has its hands full after rights activist Anna Hazare on Monday started a protest against the “anti-farmer” land law.
He got support from old associates Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, the chief minister of Delhi and his deputy whose Aam Aadmi Party had routed the BJP in the national capital’s assembly polls. They will join Hazare in his protest on Tuesday.
“This is land grab by the government … This is what the British used to do. To cater to industrialists, how can you betray farmers?” Hazare said before his dharna at Jantar Mantar.
Given the heat generated by the land law before the NDA government’s presents its first full-year budget on February 28, fear mounted within the BJP of a possible Parliament washout in the face of the Opposition’s belligerent stand.
Barring Prime Minister Modi, top BJP leaders closeted on Monday evening to see if the bill to be place before Lok Sabha could be further refined to pacify the protesters.
There were hints that the government might consider the demands when Parliament debates the bill.
“We discussed all issues, including land acquisition. We discussed issues farmers have raised. Twenty-seven farmer organisations have met home minister Rajnath Singh,” Union minister Ananth Kumar said.
“We will consider what is on farmers’ minds. The Prime Minister has said at an all-party meet we will welcome suggestions.”
The prime objection to the land acquisition ordinance has been that it removed the need for written consent from 70% of landowners for joint public-private projects.
To make matters worse, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) has also raised objection to the ordinance, seeing in it a reason for the BJP’s drubbing in Delhi.
The government tried its hand to bring the Opposition on board as PM Modi said dialogue and discussion were an essential part of democracy and hoped for a positive outcome of the budget session.
He walked up to the opposition benches with folded hands after entering Lok Sabha on Monday morning — a first by the Prime Minister in almost nine months since taking charge.
Meanwhile, setting in motion the process of replacing ordinances relating coal mines, e-rickshaws and FDI in insurance with fresh bills, the government has listed for the withdrawal of old bills in Rajya Sabha.
Union ministers Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari and Piyush Goyal will move for withdrawal of these bills.
The government is racing against time to convert the six ordinances into bills in the first part of the Budget session, which comes to an end on March 20.
The government will also introduce a bill in Lok Sabha to amend the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, which will replace the ordinance promulgated on the issue recently.