Last Monday when president Pranab Mukherjee kept the government on tenterhooks asking explanation for the urgency in recommending to him the promulgation of an ordinance to amend the land acquisition law, more scare was in store, as despite repeated contacts the minister concerned — union rural development minister Chaudhary Birender Singh – was out of reach.After exhausting all avenues to reach the minister, a Haryana strongman, who could have briefed the president on the urgency, the Prime Minister’s Office finally dispatched a battery of three ministers — union finance minister Arun Jaitley, law minister D V Sadananda Gowda and road transport minister Nitin Gadkari – to put forth the government’s viewpoint. Gadkari, who had earlier held the portfolio of rural development and was instrumental in initiating the amendments in the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, succeeded in persuading the president and got his signatures on the dotted line.The amendment in the Section 105 of the Act had to be promulgated before January 1, 2015, the onset of new year, the 13 other legislations, initially spared, would have come under the purview of the Act. Legal experts had told the government that unless an ordinance was issued before January 1, 13 central legislations, including Land Acquisition (Mines) Act 1885, Atomic Energy Act, 1962, Railway Act 1989, National Highways Act 1956 and Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act, 1978, excluded from the Act, would come under its purview.Earlier, it was believed that rural development minister Chaudhary Birender Singh, a farmer leader was sulking due to other amendments in the Act, which he believed are anti-famer. But, he cleared his position on Friday, saying the PMO had launched a search for him on Monday, but he was unavailable. “They had used all means of communication to trace me. But I was out of communication network,” the minister said, but refused to divulge the place he was holding up.Taking cover of this urgent amendment, union cabinet had gone ahead to correct other anomalies, amending Section 10(A) of the Act — expands the list of projects that would not require Social Impact Assessment (SIA ) and prior consent of affected families. These include projects for defence and defence production, rural infrastructure including rural electrification, affordable housing and housing for the poor, industrial corridors as well as infrastructure and social infrastructure projects including public private partnership projects wherein the ownership continues to vest with the government. The government officials believed this amendment could have been delayed till the Parliament session to avoid controversy. Ordinance factoryThe UPA-II issued about 25 ordinances in five years, with an average of five a year.The NDA government under prime minister Narendra Modi has issued eight ordinances in seven months. These are: TRAI Ordinance to appoint Nripendra Misra as Principal Secretary, E-Rickshaw regularization, Coal, Insurance, 100% FDI in medical devices in the pharmaceutical sector, Land Acquisition, Textile undertakings laws and the ordinance to regularize unauthorised colonies.

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How rural development minister gave government a scare by remaining incommunicado?