New Delhi: Despite having the numbers in the Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is unlikely to get the controversial land acquisition ordinance ratified without any turbulence today.
The party’s entire approach towards those critical, even mildly, to the amendments to the Land Act of 2013 has been confounding indeed. It wants to get important legislations cleared, which requires some cooperation from the opposition. Yet it won’t stop insulting and slighting the latter in Parliament and forums outside it. It won’t pacify allies who are apprehensive of the changes. If the reach-out efforts are on privately, they are being nullified by combative statements outside.
The crux of the problem is that the BJP sees the land issue only in terms of numbers in Parliament. While it plans to bulldoze its way through, it remains oblivious to the fact that the lawmakers are not the only stakeholders in the matter. In its hurry, the government is fast squandering its political trust amongst farmers, tribals and the aam aadmi – the very set of people who gave a thumping majority to the BJP in the Lok Sabha election 2014. Only nine months into power, the impression is getting stronger that the government is ‘anti-farmer, anti-poor’.
BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi in his article in the Economic Times – ‘Perceptions, expectations from Budget’– on February 24 wrote: “Change is in the air. The PM is working hard, and there has been a sense of optimism in the general public. At the same time, there is a perception among a section that the government is encouraging big industry, and that the poor and middle class have not been given due attention.”
Sompal Shastri, former Union minister for Agriculture in the Atal Behari Vajpayee-government and an agriculture expert, said “Besides the public, there is resentment and dissension within the BJP on this issue. Across the country, I’ve found that there’s a strong perception among people that the government is ‘pro-corporate’ and is promoting crony capitalism in a more unabashed manner than the Congress.”
Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, the RSS-affiliated social organization working in tribal areas, in its resolution passed on 17 February has expressed concern over changes to the Act of 2013 and the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) — MMDR Act, 1957.
“The country has been witnessing resentment of the tribals and rural population in mining areas against mining activities and involuntary land acquisitions for decades. Indiscriminate land acquisitions and poor Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) Policy and inequitable distribution of wealth and prosperity generated out of mining were mainly responsible for this anger-resentment,” the resolution mentioned.
Besides land acquisition and rehabilitation issue, the central executive of the Akhil Bhartiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (ABVKA) had demanded the government incorporate amendments on royalty, sharing of profit, compensation and maintenance of the affected-displaced people, etc in the MMDR Act.
“Coal mine units (including captive coal block) should part 26% of their net profit for this purpose and return of land of safely closed mines to their original land owners or their legal heirs should be incorporated in the MMDR draft bill, which has been neglected,” ABVKA had demanded.
The Lok Sabha passed the MMDR Amendment Bill 2015 on 3 March.
Another RSS-affiliated body, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), has written to the government to amend the Land Acquisition Act on the lines mentioned in the ordinance.
“We’ve written to the MPs to raise this issue in Parliament and not to support this land ordinance,” said Prabhakar Kelkar, general secretary of BKS.
Arun Kumar, Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University pointed out, “Considering the forthcoming Bihar polls, this land ordinance issue if mishandled, would prove to be politically damaging for Modi.”
Compensation, which includes cost of resettlement, rehabilitation and relocation of farmers, whose land has been acquired, is a major issue.
“It’s tricky because the solatium that’s paid is 30% of the compensation amount based on market price. But the market price is not fixed and it’s left on the whims and fancies of the ruling political party. Haryana government is the biggest example, which has created a separate mechanism. Farmers aren’t aware of this fine print,” pointed out Shastri, former member, Committee on Subordinate Legislation.
Radhakrishnan T R Aiyyer, an Aam Aadmi Party member, who is a part of the Yogendra Yadav-led ‘Jai Kisan Abhiyan’ in Haryana added, “Haryana is a perfect example of how the state government has been exploiting farmers by offering lower compensation. First, why does the the government want agricultural land to set up industries and second, why does it want to acquire land if it doesn’t have any blue-print? Is it to sell it later at a higher price? The aim of the BJP seems to make the farmers extinct.”
The Left-affiliated farmers’ union representatives met President Pranab Mukherjee on 24 February and submitted a memorandum in this regard. The defeat faced by the BJP government in the Rajya Sabha voting on the Amendment on Black Money moved by CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechuri on 3 March is a warning to the government as to what could be in store for them, if they ride roughshod over the massive public opinion against the Bill.
“The unjust and blatantly biased nature of the Land Acquisition Bill 2015 in favour of the land mafia and corporate, has led to a never-before-kind of unity against it. The Modi government and any other state government which tries to implement such a policy for indiscriminate land acquisition will face an unprecedented wave of protests.” said Vijoo Krishnan, joint secretary, All India Kisan Sabha.
Now, it needs to be seen how the government gets the bill through, as the NDA allies have joined hands with the opposition. “It’s a sheer number game. This time allies have gone against the Bill. Even if they are successful on Monday, they will be defeated at some stage,” added Shastri.
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