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Congress Bhavan under construction on plot alloted to Associated Journals Limited: RTI

The plot, situated in suburban Bandra, was also granted a waiver of interest charges of over Rs two crore that accrued due to delayed payment for the land allotment. This information was provided to RTI activist Anil Galgali by the Fire Brigade department of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM)

Construction of a Congress Bhavan building is in progress instead of a Nehru library on a prime Mumbai plot alloted to Associated Journals Limited, the holding company of the ‘National Herald’ and ‘Qaumi Ekta’ newspapers, an RTI query has revealed.The plot, situated in suburban Bandra, was also granted a waiver of interest charges of over Rs two crore that accrued due to delayed payment for the land allotment. This information was provided to RTI activist Anil Galgali by the Fire Brigade department of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM).<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Galgali had sought information from MCGM’s building proposal department about permissions granted to M/s Associated Journals for carrying out construction on the land. It was informed that the company was issued commencement certificate on June 14, 2013 by MCGM and since the land came under the funnel of the Airport Authority, the no-objection certificate (NOC) for the same was granted on February 5, 2014. While the Fire Brigade issued NOC for Congress Bhavan on February 8, 2013.According to details obtained through the RTI, the upcoming 11-storey Congress’ building will be having minimum 135 car parking space. It also has 14 office spaces but there is no earmarking for newspaper offices, library and research centre. Recently, Galgali wrote to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis urging that the construction activity be immediately stopped and the land allotment be scrapped. He further wrote that the possession of the land be taken by the government and since the land was originally reserved for building a hostel for Backward classes, the same be constructed on it.Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) was allotted the land plot by the Maharashtra government in 1983 for a news publication, a Nehru library and research centre, neither of which was built. The interest on the amount turned out to a massive Rs 2.79 crore, which in 2001, was waived off by then Revenue Minister Ashok Chavan, it said. Government documents procured by Galgali show that the land in Bandra was allotted to AJL for Rs 1.31 crore. However, they did not observe one of the key conditions of the lease by commencing construction in the plot within three years of it being allotted. Also, the documents show that the entire principal amount was not paid in one go.This plot, before handover to AJL, was originally reserved to build a hostel for students (Scheduled Caste). Not only did Associated Journals not construct the press building and library, but it also managed to obtain repeated extensions from the state government while continuing to hold on to the 30-year lease, which expired on December 22 last year, following which a two-year extension was granted, according to documents.

Sun sets on solar thermal plant projects in Rajasthan

3,404 acres of land remains unused for intended purpose in Rajasthan, according to CAG report

Pic for representation purpose only

According to a CAG report that was tabled in the parliament on December 8, five years since the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government leased almost 3,404 acres of land – mostly in Jaisalmer, at preferential rates to various developers for solar thermal plants remain unused for its intended purpose.According to the audit, in September 2008, the Rajasthan government also granted M/S Par Solar 375 acres of land at preferential rates under the Development Programme to build a 5 MW solar photovoltaic (SPV) power plant. For this entire project since a mere six acres would have sufficed, almost 345 acres of land were leased in excess of requirement.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In January 2010, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), four companies M/S Rajasthan Sun Technique Energy Pvt Ltd., M/S Corporate Ispat Alloys Ltd., M/S Diwakar Solar Projects Pvt. Ltd. and M/S KVK Energy Ventures Pvt Ltd. were granted land rights under preferential treatment. The land allotted was leased for a period of 30 years at 10% of the Collector Rate while two more companies – M/S Entegra Ltd. And M/S Dalmia Solar Power Ltd. were allotted land under the Migration scheme in October 2010.Rajasthan has high potential to contribute towards the nation’s climate change programme by developing and harnessing solar energy. The energy developed here could account up to 59% of the estimated national solar energy potential. The state has an estimated potential of 1,42,310 MW, though it has installed only 730.10 MW, merely 0.51% of its potential.When Rajasthan Sun Technique Energy Pvt. Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Power, was awarded the concentrated solar project (CSP) in December 2010, it was the largest investment of its kind undertaken by any private sector entity in the country. The project, financed through debt by various multilateral agencies that included the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Export Import Bank of the United States, Financerings Maatschappu Voor Ontwikkelingslanden N.V. (FMO), the Netherlands, and Axis Bank, was expected to generate about 250 million kilowatt hours of green energy that was capable of supporting around 2.50 lakh households.This could potentially be a huge contribution towards India’s clean energy programme and reduce carbon emissions by 2.40 lakh tonnes a year. Since, India is a major participant in the Paris Climate talks and has emphasized the need to convert to alternate energy, this would prove to be a crucial thrust towards the programme.While the reasons for the six projects for taking off remain unknown, according to a reliable source at Diwakar Solar Projects Pvt. Ltd, the project, that has already seen an investment of Rs. 500 crores, needs to be reworked since they received wrong solar radiation date by the government agencies. “The data reading was 20% higher than the actual readings done by us because of which additional land is required,” sources said. The company which was initially allotted 978 acres requires 15-20% more land. “We have petitioned the concerned ministry for the same and await their response,” they added. High potential to produce solar energyRajasthan has high potential to contribute towards the nation’s climate change programme by developing and harnessing solar energy. The energy developed here could account up to 59% of the estimated national solar energy potential. The state has an estimated potential of 1,42,310 MW, though it has installed only 730.10 MW, merely 0.51% of its potential.

Land bill: Opposition members in joint panel want PM Modi’s explanation

As soon as the meeting began here, members from Trinamool Congress said that since the ordinance to amend the land bill has lapsed, the bill should be withdrawn as they are identical in nature.

Narendra Modi

Opposition members in the joint committee of Parliament examining the contentious land acquisition bill on Monday demanded calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a witness, an idea opposed by the ruling BJP and ally Shiv Sena.As soon as the meeting began here, members from Trinamool Congress said that since the ordinance to amend the land bill has lapsed, the bill should be withdrawn as they are identical in nature.But BJP and Shiv Sena members in the panel opposed the demand saying that the committee has been mandated to submit its report on the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015 and it should adhere to its responsibility.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At this, Kalyan Banerjee (TMC) said since Prime Minister Modi had himself made it clear in his August 30 ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio broadcast that the land ordinance will not be re-promulgated, there is no point in examining the bill since it is a copy of the ordinance. Amid a debate, he demanded that the Prime Minister be called as a witness to explain about the bill. His demand was supported by Congress members who said the panel was free to call anyone as witness.The demand of the Congress and the Trinamool Congress was opposed by BJP and Shiv Sena. Before the meeting was adjourned, panel chairman S S Ahluwalia suggested that the panel get another extension till the end of the Winter session on December 23 to submit its report. If the Committee seeks another extension, then the possibility of the land bill clearing Parliament in the Winter session beginning November 26 seems remote.In August, the panel had been granted a fresh extension to submit its report in the Winter session. Ahluwalia had been striving to submit a unanimous report.”Rise&Shine.In Del for Land Acqstn Bill panel meeting. Why drag it on? Govt should withdraw and move on. Peace offering before Winter Session?,” another TMC member in the panel Derek O’ Brien had tweeted this morning ahead of the meeting. In his ‘Mann ki baat’ Modi had said that the government will not re-promulgate the land ordinance which expired on August 31 and had declared readiness to accept any suggestions to benefit the farmers in the pending bill on it.

Robert Vadra in trouble? ED conducts search operations on firm allegedly linked to him

“It is suspected that the firm acted as a dummy or shell company. Some documents and computer peripherals have been seized. The premises, which were brought under the search operation, belongs to a chartered accountancy firm.”

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The Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted search operations at the premises of a Delhi-based firm in connection with a money laundering case arising out of a land grab case in Bikaner involving a company allegedly linked to Robert Vadra. Agency sleuths searched the premises of the firm in south Delhi after its probe found that it was “involved” in purchasing land from companies, who had initially procured land from the border town of Rajasthan. “It is suspected that the firm acted as a dummy or shell company. Some documents and computer peripherals have been seized. The premises, which were brought under the search operation, belongs to a chartered accountancy firm,” sources said. ED had registered a criminal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in this case in September taking cognizance of some state police FIRs, even as it recorded media reports that had referred to a firm linked to Vadra, son-in-law of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, which had purchased some of these lands.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The agency had not taken the name of Vadra or any company linked to him in its FIR but it had named some state government officials and some of the “land mafia”. “He (Vadra) has done no wrong. No case is pending against him. This is sheer political vendetta,” Congress General Secretary and spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed had told reporters after the ED filed its case few months back. Rajasthan government had in January this year cancelled the mutation (transfer of land) of 374.44 hectares of land, after the land department claimed to have found that the allotments were made in the names of “illegal private persons”. The central probe agency picked up the case based on 18 FIRs filed by the state police in August last year after the local tehsildar had made a complaint.He had said in the complaint that the government land in 34 villages of Bikaner, to be used for expanding the army’s firing range in the area, was “grabbed” by the land mafia by preparing “forged and fabricated documents” in connivance with government officials.Sources said the agency suspected that huge amounts of money was laundered in this case by people buying land at cheap rates through forged documents. The state government, while cancelling the mutations, had said that these were not issued by the Commissioner, Colonisation, Bikaner. The state police has also filed charge sheets in the 18 cases in a court in Kolayat in the middle of this year.

SC grants relief to Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma in land allotment case

New Delhi: In a relief to Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma, the Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a plea seeking a direction to CBI to challenge the 2010 acquittal of the BJP leader in a 1997 case relating to allotment of land to his Kailash Hospital at Noida.

“We are sorry,” a bench comprising Chief Justice HL Dattu and Justice Amitava Roy said.

Mahesh Sharma. PTI

Mahesh Sharma. PTI

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who has been associated as amicus curiae with the 1997 PIL relating to land allotments made in Noida, raised the issue of “locus standi” and said that this issue now cannot be raised.

Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Neera Yadav has been facing various court cases relating to allotment of plots to persons as head of the Noida’s Development Authority.

One of the cases pertained to allotment of land to Kailash Hospital in Noida and Sharma, now a Minister in the NDA government, has been acquitted by the trial court.

The fresh plea, which was rejected on Monday, had sought a direction to CBI to file an appeal in the High Court against Sharma’s acquittal in 2010 in the land case.

A PIL was filed against Neera Yadav and others in 1997 by the Noida Entrepreneurs Association alleging bungling in the allotment of land in different sectors and in commercial Sector 18 in Noida during her tenure as head of Noida’s Development Authority.

PTI

BJP leader Sangeet Som slams owning ‘meat processing unit’ rumours, says ‘I don’t even eat egg’

“I did buy the land but after three months, I had sold it. I don’t know why people are repeating this issue again and again. I have all the documents related to the land,” Som told the media here.

Refuting reports that he owns a meat processing unit, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sangeet Som on Saturday said that he doesn’t even eat egg and therefore there is no point of him owning a meat processing unit.”I did buy the land but after three months, I had sold it. I don’t know why people are repeating this issue again and again. I have all the documents related to the land,” Som told the media here.”I am a Hindu. I know each and every ritual which is there in the religion. It’s a sin to eat meat according to Hinduism. I don’t even eat egg. So, there is no point of establishing a meat processing unit,” he added.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The denial comes a day after a media report said registry documents revealed that the MLA had purchased land in Aligarh for a meat processing unit in 2009.

Patel quota row: Hardik Patel to expand movement across nation, to demand community’s land back from govt

He said a rally will be organised at Ramlila Maidan here to press the demand for return of the land of the Gujjars.

. Patel said important structures like the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Akshardham and the Parliament have been built on the land acquired form the Gujjar and Kurmi leaders.

Hardik Patel, leader of the Patel agitation in Gujarat, on Wednesday announced plans to expand his movement across the country and began by batting for Gujjars in Delhi with a demand for return of their land acquired for various purposes. Patel said his Akhil Bhartiya Patel Navnirman Sena (ABPNS), an umbrella organisation of Patels, Kurmis and Gujjars, will work for the rights of its communities in different parts of the country.Beginning with Delhi, the 22-year-old Gujarati leader said, “When we came to Delhi, we learnt that our brothers’ lands had been acquired at meagre amounts and now huge structures have come over there.” Addressing volunteers of ABPNS, he said, “We have to fight a battle for our Gujjar brothers. Whatever land that is available and where no work is happening should be given back to our Gujjar brothers.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said a rally will be organised at Ramlila Maidan here to press the demand for return of the land of the Gujjars. He, however, did not specify when will the rally will take place. Patel said important structures like the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Akshardham and the Parliament have been built on the land acquired form the Gujjar and Kurmi community leaders. Sending a word of caution to the BJP, he said, “In Gujarat we saw that if anyone that has helped make a Prime Minister then it is us, so we should not be harmed”.Patel is already at loggerheads with the BJP-led government in his home state by leading an agitation for reservation for Patels there. He insisted that he did not want to give any political shape to the newly-formed organisation but added that a decision on this will be taken at a time when required. “It is a non-political entity where social issues will be discussed. Its job will be to protect the people of Patel, Kurmi and Gujjar community, farmers, workers and women. “We have spread our organisation in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Chhatisgarh. We should built such a strong organisation that whenever the Patel Navnirman Sena make a call, the country must come to a standstill. There should be one voice of the Patels, Marathas, Kurmis, Gujjars,” he said.

BJP counters Rahul Gandhi’s jibe at PM Modi, says ‘Take in India’ happened in UPA rule

Union minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar also hit out at Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi for “take in India” remarks in which he said Modi’s “Make in India” has no place for the farmers and the poor.

‘Take in India’ happened in 2G (spectrum allocation), Commonwealth games, coal… no decision was taken without taking,” says BJP

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Hitting back at Congress for calling the Narendra Modi government “anti-farmer”, the BJP today questioned the alleged land deals involving Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra in Haryana and Rajasthan and asked if they were in the interest of the farming community.Union minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar also hit out at Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi for “take in India” remarks in which he said Modi’s “Make in India” has no place for the farmers and the poor. “Rahul Gandhi has become an expert in talk with light substance (halki baat). (He says) it is not ‘Make in India’ but ‘take in India’. Rahul ji, ‘take in India’ happened the most in your (UPA) rule. It happened in 2G (spectrum allocation), Commonwealth games, coal… no decision was taken without taking. Therefore, you remember take in India,” he said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The BJP held a press conference just hours after Congress rally at Ramlila Maidan to project the decision of the Modi government of not re-promulgating the land ordinance as the victory of the party and the farmers. Charging that the Prime Minister had “no time” to meet farmers and hear their woes, Congress today said it would take the fight on the “anti-farmer” land bill to the states.Prasad also defended the amended land bill, claiming that several chief ministers of Congress-ruled states had supported changes in the Act and development was difficult without the amendments. The minister said Niti Aayog has suggested that states be given flexibility in land law and the issue is under consideration of the Centre. He also claimed that the then Commerce Minister Anand Sharma too had supported changes in the land law for the sake of development.Seeking to puncture Congress’ attack on the new land bill and the ordinance which lapsed last month, Prasad asked if farmers were respected under the “vadra model of development where land was bought at cheap rates and sold at higher prices.” He also sought to know about the land acquired for 37 special economic zones in Haryana in the ten years of Congress rule. “So far only six have become operational. What happened to the rest. Where is the land (acquired for them),” he asked.

No place for labourers and farmers in Modi’s ‘Make in India’, alleges Rahul Gandhi

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is snatching a farmer’s mother in the form of his land.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is snatching a farmer’s mother in the form of his land.”A farmer has two mothers-his own mother and his land. Modi is snatching farmer’s mother,” Rahul said while addressing the farmers at the Kisan Mazdoor Samman Rally at the Ramlila Ground here.”This is not the fight of the land of the farmers, this is the fight for honour and respect of the farmers,” he said.Gandhi further said the farmers of this nation are today scared and weak. And Modi ji wants them to be weak, he added while asserting that the BJP-led NDA Government is least concerned about the farmers.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rahul also said that there’s no place for labourers and farmers in PM Modi’s Make in India. This is not Make in India, this is ‘Take in India’.Rahul also said that the fight on land bill is not limited to Parliament but has to be fought even in Assemblies.”This is not a fight for farms, not a fight for land but this is a battle for farmers’ hearts. This is a fight for the dignity and future of the farmers which is why Congress stands with you,” said Rahul

NDA govt dedicated to poor, farmers: BJP President Amit Shah

Faced with stiff resistance, Modi earlier on Sunday announced that the government will not re-promulgate the controversial Ordinance on Land Acquisition which expires tomorrow and declared a readiness to incorporate any suggestion in the Bill, pending in Rajya Sabha, which was of benefit to farmers.
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dna Research & Archives
Hailing the Centre’s decision to bring 13 laws under the Land Acquisition Act, BJP on Sunday called it a “pro-farmer” measure and insisted that its government will work to get the proposed land Bill passed in Parliament. Calling the land law passed by the previous UPA regime “full of errors”, BJP President Amit Shah said that almost all state governments are against it. He added that the ordinance brought in by the Modi government dealt with these issues but opposition parties “misled and scared” the farmers with respect to the proposed changes in the law.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In an apparent attack on Congress and Left, he said that some political parties are doing politics over the issue and it will be BJP’s attempt to have the NDA Bill passed in Parliament after developing a consensus on its measures.Referring to the government’s decision of bringing 13 laws under the Act, Shah said, “This is a step taken for the welfare of farmers and I thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi for this. The NDA government is dedicated to the poor and the farmers.” He added that, due to the government’s decision, farmers will get four times more compensation in rural areas and two times more in urban areas and also get rehabilitation benefits.Also read: NDA govt, PM Modi serious about farmers’ issues, says Vasundhara RajeFaced with stiff resistance, Modi earlier on Sunday announced that the government will not re-promulgate the controversial Ordinance on Land Acquisition which expires tomorrow and declared a readiness to incorporate any suggestion in the Bill, pending in Rajya Sabha, which was of benefit to farmers.Apparently referring to the political opponents, he said a lot of doubts had been created over the land Bill and fear instilled among farmers even though the states had suggested amendments to the Act of 2013 for the benefit of villages and villagers.The government had issued the Ordinance thrice so far as the land Bill could not be passed in Parliament due to stiff resistance by most opposition parties as well as some allies of the ruling NDA.

Sitaram Yechury criticises PM Modi on issue of land acquisition ordinance

Yechury questioned as to why the government went for promulgating the land acquisition ordinance thrice in an unprecedented manner if it is now allowing this ordinance to lapse.
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dna Research & Archives
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) leader Sitaram Yechury on Sunday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue of land acquisition ordinance which will lapse on 31 August.Yechury questioned as to why the government went for promulgating the land acquisition ordinance thrice in an unprecedented manner if it is now allowing this ordinance to lapse. This was a reaction to the Prime Minister Modi’s announcement in today’s Mann ki Baat programme to allow the land acquisition ordinance to lapse tomorrow. He however proposed to include the 13 points of the ordinance through the law to provide direct financial benefit to the farmers.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Yechury termed Prime Minister’s promise to provide direct monetary benefit to farmers as eyewash and also criticised the government’s policy towards agriculture and the farmers.Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said in Mumbai on Sunday that decision was taken at the NITI Ayog’s request.”At a recent NITI Aayog meeting, most chief ministers had demanded that due to the stalemate in Parliament over the Land Bill, critical infrastructure projects of states are getting delayed and so the Centre should empower states to enact their own land acquisition models,” Fadnavis told PTI.”We are happy that Modi has accepted our request and decided that instead of re-promulgating the ordinance, states will be empowered to frame their own models,” he said.

Won’t renew ordinance on land acquisition, says PM Modi in his Mann Ki Baat

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said his government will not renew the land acquisition ordinance that lapses on Monday.

“We had issued an ordinance which lapses tomorrow (August 31). I have decided, let it lapse. We will not renew it,” Modi said during his radio address ‘Mann Ki Baat’ on Sunday.

PM Narendra Modi. PTIPM Narendra Modi. PTI

PM Narendra Modi. PTI

“It will mean the situation will be once again as it was before my government came,” he said.

The prime minister said there were 13 points, referring to already existing Acts for acquiring land.

He said the rules would be changed to give farmers higher benefit under these laws.

Modi said a statutory order was being brought to include 13 central Acts to extend benefits to those farmers whose land is acquired. “The government’s heart is clear on the land Act. We are ready to accept any recommendation that favours the farmers.”

“The ordinance will lapse, but those 13 points (Acts) will be brought under the rules so that the farmers do not suffer economic loss,” he said.

According to official sources, a statutory order issued by the government will ensure that farmers whose land are acquired under the 13 acts like the Land Acquisition (Mines) Act, 1885, the Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act, 1978, and the National Highways Act, 1956, get higher compensation.

The executive order issued under section 113 of the land acquisition law, enacted by the erstwhile Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, extends compensation and resettlement benefits under the law to the land acquired under 13 central Acts so far not covered.

This would mean the land acquired for any purpose would now be eligible for the high compensation and resettlement under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 — the UPA version of the Act.

The ordinance was brought after the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government failed to get its amended land acquisition bill passed in parliament. The ordinance has so far been re-promulgated thrice.

Modi said rumours were being spread over the Act.

“The proposal for amendment in the Land Acquisition Act came from the states. Every one felt if the farmer has to be benefited, if we have to make canals to take water to farms, erect poles to take electricity to villages, make roads, or houses for rural poor, we will have to get the law out of the bureaucratic tangles and so the proposal of changing the law came,” Modi said.

“But so many rumours have been spread. Farmers have been scared. My farmer brothers and sisters, don’t be scared. For me, every voice in the nation is important and the voice of farmers has a special place,” he said.

“There is no reason for doubt, do not be scared,” Modi added.

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s land bill is presently with a joint committee of parliament.

IANS

PM Modi’s strategic climbdown on land bill in Mann ki Baat address portrays him as a democrat, not dictator

0The contentious ordinance on land acquisition will not be re-promulgated. It will now be allowed to lapse on 31 August.

In the 11th edition of his ‘Mann ki Baat’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi set a new precedent for himself and his government — make key policy announcements directly to the public.

While making this big declaration and adding that enhanced compensation benefits will be henceforth be given to farmers, he has sought to correct an anti-farmer perception about his government. The farmers whose land will be acquired in 13 other categories, were also exempt under various other Central laws as specified in UPA’s 2013 Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (RFCTLARR ). Modi also set a new agenda for the Lalu Yadav-Nitish Kumar-Sonia Gandhi ahead of the combine’s Swabhimaan rally in Patna, scheduled only two hours later.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a file photo. AFP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a file photo. AFP

The decision not to promulgate the ordinance on land acquisition for the third time is a big U-turn by the Modi government, and something that gives the Congress and other political rivals an opportunity to celebrate the beating of a retreat by the Centre. By choosing to make this announcement on the ‘Mann ki Baat’ platform, Modi has sought to give the impression that he is not dictatorial in his thoughts and action, something alleged repeatedly by his rivals. The message that he is a democrat and his government which “has an open mind” was “willing to accept any suggestion for benefit of farmers”, was made with a finger on the public pulse. This was also an admission and indication that his party and government had bungled on the subject and had the heart to admit it. It is also notable that he didn’t attach any personal ego or prestige to this policy issue.

Modi suggested that the ordinance and consequent amendments in the land acquisition bill were carried out with a good intent and purpose, but since perception mattered most in politics and governance, he was taking a step or two back. At the same time, he didn’t name the Congress for creating an impression “an atmosphere of confusion and fear” even though the suggestion for amendments had come from the states (including then Congress-ruled Haryana and Maharastra).

The reversal of a policy decision of this magnitude — where the entire leadership of the government and the party had put its collective prestige at stake — could not have been easy for Modi. Land acquisition was also considered to be a necessary component for fulfilling the development and job-oriented promises made by Modi in the run up to 2014 parliamentary elections.

By making a turnaround, he has faced criticism from business, industry and other related quarters that the government’s reformist resolve was weakening. But under the prevalent circumstances, the BJP believes that this is a politically prudent move.

Modi has gone a step ahead in listing the compensation benefits in 13 other categories — an area that the 2013 Act had left open to correction at a future date. Prior to the ‘Mann ki Baat’ address, the Union Rural Development Ministry issued a notification saying “as per the provisions of article 123 of the Constitution, the RFCTLARR (Amendment) Second Ordinance, 2015 (5 of 2015) shall lapse on the 31st August, 2015, thereby placing the land owners at the disadvantageous position, resulting in denial of benefits of enhanced compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement to the cases of land acquisition under the 13 Acts specified in the Fourth Schedule to the RFCTLARR Act as extended to the land owners under the said Ordinance. Therefore, since the Central Government considers it necessary to extend the benefits available to the land owners under the RFCTLARR Act to similarly placed land owners whose lands are acquired under the 13 Central enactments specified in the Fourth Schedule, the Government has decided to uniformly apply the beneficial provisions of Section 105 of the RFCTLARR Act relating to the determination of compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement as were made applicable to cases of land acquisition under the said enactments in the interest of the land owners”.

The 13 Central enactments in fourth schedule include the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, Atomic Energy Act, Damodar Valley Corporation Act, Indian Tramways Act, Land Acquisition (Mines) Act, Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act, The National Highways Act, Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act, Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act, Resettlement of Displaced Persons (Land Acquisition) Act, Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition and Development Act,  Electricity Act and Railways Act.

He is also using this self-devised platform for reconciliation to address areas of social conflict such as the violence in Gujarat during the Patel reservation agitation which led to the loss of 10 lives and substantial damage to public and private property, and the lessons of love and harmony as enshrined in Sufi tradition. Youth, women, children and Clean India continued to be go-to areas in his ‘Mann ki Baat’. The fact that he talked about Dengue-related hygiene concerns — dos and don’ts — portrays an attempt to reach out to all sections of society.

His announcement of the acquisition of two sites related to Dr BR Ambedkar — one in Mumbai and the other in London — for the purpose of building memorials in his name, is politically and socially significant. Modi and the BJP are wooing the Dalit community in Bihar and UP, as also in other parts of the country. And now, while he may have ceded ground on the land bill, he has given himself a new talking point while campaigning for the BJP in Bihar elections.

Congress picks holes in Modi government’s new stance on land bill

The Congress on Saturday picked up holes in the notification route on the Land bill insisting that though the Law Ministry had opposed the move, Government went ahead with it with an eye on Bihar Assembly polls.

Jairam Ramesh

The Congress on Saturday picked up holes in the notification route on the Land bill insisting that though the Law Ministry had opposed the move, Government went ahead with it with an eye on Bihar Assembly polls.”This has been done only with a view to blunt the opposition campaign in Bihar polls against the BJP that it was anti-farmer”, party leader Jairam Ramesh told reporters.Ramesh alleged that the move was an “insult to Parliament” as it was an attempt to bypass it by a government which “slept for seven long months” after coming to power” and had failed to bring amendments to relevant Acts before the 2014 end deadline.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At the same time, he made it clear that the Congress was only against the manner in which it has been done by the government and not against extending benefits to those whose land is acquired under the land law.Giving up the ordinance route, government had yesterday issued an ‘order’ to include 13 central Acts like National Highway and Railways Acts to extend benefits to those whose land is acquired under land law.The order issued by the government under the removal of difficulties clause (Section 113) in the Land Act now extends the provisions relating to the determination of compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement to all cases of land acquisition under 13 central acts which were left out in the 2013 law.By using the clause, government has done away with the need to issue the controversial land ordinance for a record fourth time. The ordinance will lapse on August 31, six weeks after the commencement of the Monsoon session — July 21.Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi is understood to be in favour of issuing such an order, but the Law Ministry said only an ordinance can be brought to bring the 13 acts under the ambit of the land law.As per the section 105 (3) of the Land Acquisition Act 2013, Centre may, within one year of the enactment of the law, extend benefits of the first and second schedule of the Act (provisions relating to the determination of compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement) to the acquisitions made under 13 other central acts.In its response, the Law Ministry said that since the desired notification under section 105 of the Act has not been issued and the one year period has already been lapsed “doing so at this belated stage may not be legally tenable”. It said it can now be done only through a legislation or an Ordinance.Since a Joint Committee of Parliament is examining the amended land bill brought by the NDA government, the government did not touch upon the controversial clauses which were part of the ordinance.Also Read: FM Arun Jaitley says decision on Land Ordinance within 48 hours

Government issues notice to include 13 central Acts in Land Law

New Delhi: Giving up the ordinance route, government on Saturday issued an ‘order’ to include 13 central Acts like National Highway and Railways Acts to extend benefits to those whose land is acquired under land law.

The order issued by the government under the removal of difficulties clause (Section 113) in the Land Act now extends the provisions relating to the determination of compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement to all cases of land acquisition under 13 central acts which were left out in the 2013 law.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

By using the clause, government has done away with the need to issue the controversial land ordinance for a record fourth time. The ordinance will lapse on 31 August, six weeks after the commencement of the Monsoon session — 21 July.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi is understood to be in favour of issuing such an order, but the Law Ministry said only an ordinance can be brought to bring the 13 acts under the ambit of the land law.

Since a Joint Committee of Parliament is examining the amended land bill brought by the NDA government, it did not touch upon the controversial clauses which were part of the ordinance.

Congress, which has been opposing the amended bill, had fiercely attacked it when the Ordinance was last re-promulgated on May 31.

Since it is now decided that the ordinance will not be re-issued, government may not have to prorogue the Monsoon session which was adjourned sine die on August 13 amid indications that it may be reconvened to take up the GST bill.

The Land Acquisition Act, 2013 had exempted 13 acts from its purview with the condition that they would be included under the purview of the act within one year. The NDA’s ordinance brought these 13 acts under the new land law.

The ordinance also made significant changes in the Land Acquisition Act including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas — industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.

Under the amended Act, 13 legislations, including those relating to defence and national security, to provide higher compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement benefits to farmers whose land is being acquired have been brought under the Centre’s purview.

Under the ordinance, the mandatory “consent” clause and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) will not be applicable if the land is acquired for five purposes.

These include,national security, defence, rural infrastructure including electrification, industrial corridors and building social infrastructure including Public Private Partnership (PPP) where ownership of land continues to be vested with the government.

PTI

Govt issues order to include 13 central Acts to give benefits to those affected by land acquisition

New Delhi: Giving up the ordinance route, government on Friday issued an ‘order’ to include 13 central Acts like National Highway and Railways Acts to extend benefits to those whose land is acquired under land law.

PTI

PTI

The order issued by the government under the removal of difficulties clause (Section 113) in the Land Act now extends the provisions relating to the determination of compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement to all cases of land acquisition under 13 central acts which were left out in the 2013 law.

By using the clause, government has done away with the need to issue the controversial land ordinance for a record fourth time. The ordinance will lapse on 31 August, six weeks after the commencement of the Monsoon session – 21 July.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi is understood to be in favour of issuing such an order, but the Law Ministry said only an ordinance can be brought to bring the 13 acts under the ambit of the land law.

Since a Joint Committee of Parliament is examining the amended land bill brought by the NDA government, it did not touch upon the controversial clauses which were part of the ordinance.

Congress, which has been opposing the amended bill, had fiercely attacked it when the Ordinance was last re-promulgated on 31 May.

Since it is now decided that the ordinance will not be re-issued, government may not have to prorogue the Monsoon session which was adjourned sine die on 13 August amid indications that it may be reconvened to take up the GST bill.

The Land Acquisition Act, 2013 had exempted 13 acts from its purview with the condition that they would be included under the purview of the act within one year. The NDA’s ordinance brought these 13 acts under the new land law.

The ordinance also made significant changes in the Land Acquisition Act including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas — industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.

Under the amended Act, 13 legislations, including those relating to defence and national security, to provide higher compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement benefits to farmers whose land is being acquired have been brought under the Centre’s purview.

Under the ordinance, the mandatory “consent” clause and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) will not be applicable if the land is acquired for five purposes.

These include,national security, defence, rural infrastructure including electrification, industrial corridors and building social infrastructure including Public Private Partnership (PPP) where ownership of land continues to be vested with the government.

PTI

Land bill: Ball in the court of Joint Committee of Parliament, says Rural Development minister

He said that the Centre also wants to include the 13 central acts under the ambit of 2013 land law.

He said that the Centre also wants to include the 13 central acts under the ambit of 2013 land law (File Photo)

As Government weighs various options to wriggle out of the contentious land bill, Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh on Thursday insisted the prime consideration behind bringing an Ordinance on it was to bring land acquisition under 13 other excluded central acts under the ambit of 2013 land law.Singh, however, evaded direct answers when asked whether the government will, for the sake “continuity” or otherwise promulgate land ordinance for the record fourth time when it expires on August 31. He said the government has to wait for recommendations of the Joint Committee of Parliament headed by BJP MP SS Ahluwalia in order to replace the Ordinance with a law passed by Parliament. “The bill has been sent to the Joint Committee of Parliament and the Joint Committee at the fag end of the Monsoon session sought extension of time in a third row till the next session of Parliament. We have to wait for their recommendations,” he said when asked what the options before the government on land bill now when the panel is yet to submit a report and the Ordinance is expiring on August 31.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>When asked whether the government will allow Ordinance to lapse, Chaudhary said,”that is to be seen. The ball is in the court of the Joint Committee. The entire thing is totally now in their court. Had the committee brought its report, we were ready to accept the recommendations. Prime Minister has already said it was not a matter or prestige for the government,” he said. The minister’s remarks come as the government is yet to announce its decision on land ordinance amid different views being expressed about its next move.While there is a view that the government may not like to re-issue the ordinance for the fourth time and give further ammunition to Opposition to attack it on farmer front when elections are to be held in agrarian state Bihar soon. The other view is that in order to maintain continuity of the law, the ordinance, which had brought under the land acquisition process under 13 other so far excluded central laws, has to be re-promulgated. “It is beyond my understanding these thirteen acts were left out when 2013 land law was enacted. All these are central Acts and should have been brought under the ambit of the UPA land law then itself. Why it was not made applicable to them then. “The prime consideration behind our bringing the Ordinance was to ensure the compensation package of the land Act is also applicable to farmers, whose land is acquired under the 13 other central Acts and that their interest must be protected. From January 1st till now our efforts have been in that direction,” Chaudhary said.The government had brought the ordinance making changes in UPA’s land law, removing consent and social impact assessment clauses from it and bringing land acquisition under 13 other central acts also under its ambit The provisions of the rehabilitation, resettlement and compensation provided in the land law will be applicable to the 13 existing Central pieces of legislation as long as they remain under the ambit of land law. If not done so, land could be acquired under these acts with no uniform central policy of rehabilitation and resettlement.Sources said the RD Ministry directly approached the Attorney General a few days ago to seek his views on can, without re-issuing the ordinance, the clause on removal of difficulties may be used to include the 13 central acts, which were kept out of the ambit of the Land Acquisition Act 2013.Sources said while is the AG is said to have said that it was possible, the Law Ministry has not found favour with it. Under the removal of difficulties clause, power is sometimes conferred on the government to modify the provisions of the existing statutes for the purpose of removing difficulties. When the legislative passes an act, it cannot foresee all the difficulties which may arise in implementing it. The executive is, therefore, empowered to make necessary changes to remove such difficulties.A senior functionary in the rural development ministry also said that such an step of seeking to bringing change in a statute passed by Parliament by a government order may not sustain in a court of law if challenged and hence this option may not be “legally untenable”. When asked repeatedly about the options before the government if it wanted to maintain continuity of Ordinance, the Rural Development Minister quipped “the state governments also have a role” but did not elaborate.He further said that the states should also frame the rules, which they have not done so far due to which the acquisition of land has not taken off in a number of states. The minister’s remarks came at a time when the government is weighing options to wriggle out of the contentious land ordinance and was toying with the idea of using clause to remove difficulty to bring 13 central acts under the ambit of land acquisition law without going in for a fresh executive order. These acts include the Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition and Development Act 1957, the National Highways Act 1956, Land Acquisition (Mines) Act 1885, Atomic Energy Act 1962, the Indian Tramways Act 1886, the Railways Act 1989, the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958, the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act 1962 and the Damodar Valley Corporation Act 1948. The other ones include The Electricity Act 2003, Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act 1952, the Resettlement of Displaced Persons (Land Acquisition) Act 1948 and the Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act 1978.The Land Acquisition Act, 2013 had exempted 13 acts from its purview with the condition that they would be included under the purview of the act within one year. The NDA’s ordinance brought these 13 acts under the new land law.

SDM order does not affect land leased to Rajiv Gandhi Trust

Asked about the order, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said the Trust “has explained itself very very clearly”. “It runs a self-help group system that is the largest in Uttar Pradesh. They have created SHGs for over 1.4 million women.

court

A revenue court on Wednesday ordered return of the land given on lease to a cycle company back to Uttar Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation (UPSIDC), an order that does not affect the lease being enjoyed by the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust.The order passed by sub-divisional magistrate, Gauriganj, Vandita Srivastava corrects certain errors in the land records entered fraudulently by some officials pertaining to the land given on lease to Samrat Cycles. The order would have the effect of preventing Samrat Cycles from disposing of the land in any way. The SDM’s order referred to an earlier high court order which had upheld the lease in favour of Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT) on Feb 27 this year.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Asked about the order, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said the Trust “has explained itself very very clearly”. “It runs a self-help group system that is the largest in Uttar Pradesh. They have created SHGs for over 1.4 million women. They have transformed lives of millions and millions of women there. So Mrs Irani should go into the details of what work they have done and exactly what they are doing before she says anything,” he told reporters in Jammu.Accusing the BJP of spreading “fake propaganda” and “falsehoods”, the Congress party said the SDM’s order has upheld the right of lease Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI) and permission granted to it as also execution of lease deed in favour of RGCT on 27/02/2015″. “Correction of revenue record by SDM upholds the right of RGCT as a lessee of the land for remaining period of the 90 years lease”, party’s chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said in a statement in Delhi.Quoting from a copy of the order, he insisted that the SDM has also ordered correction of revenue record in favour of UPSIDC (Uttar Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation) and it does not in any way meant return of the lease land with RGCT land to the UPSIDC. He said that as per directions of Delhi High Court, RGCT took possession of the land and assets on 26.08.2011.Delhi High Court proceeded to approve the transfer deed in favour of the RGCT only in 2015, whereupon, this land was registered in the name of the RGCT at the office of Sub Registrar, Gauriganj, District Amethi on 27.02.2015. “As the legal transfer has been effected only on 27.02.2015 i.e. recently and property was in a state of disuse, RGCT will proceed to undertake further activity in due course of time.””RGCT is only entitled to retain the property for the remaining period of 55 years and has effectively stepped into the shoes of the Company in terms of the auction conducted by Delhi High Court”, he said. Surjewala said that the “unquestionable facts prove the apparent falsehood of BJP’s allegations”. Two days back, Union HRD Minister, Smt. Smriti Irani levelled allegations in Amethi relating to Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT), which were “as false as her claims to multiple educational degrees”, he said.

Land bill not to come to Parliament before Winter Session

The decision to seek further extension till the first week of the Winter Session came after a sharp excahge of words between BJP and Congress as the latter was opposed to any changes in the retrospective clause of the bill dealing with compensation of land acquired under the 1894 Act, which was replaced by the 2013 law passed by the UPA government

The contentious land acquisition bill will not come to Parliament before the Winter Session, with the Joint Committee of Parliament examining the measure on Monday deciding to seek more time to finalise its report after Congress and TMC sought more time to study certain clauses.The decision to seek further extension till the first week of the Winter Session came after a sharp excahge of words between BJP and Congress as the latter was opposed to any changes in the retrospective clause of the bill dealing with compensation of land acquired under the 1894 Act, which was replaced by the 2013 law passed by the UPA government. Giving in to the demands by Congress and TMC members for more time to study certain clauses threadbare, panel Chairman S S Ahluwalia decided that the Committee should not submit its report in this session ending on August 13 and instead do so in the first week of the Winter Session.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The committee was earlier given a fresh extension till tomorrow to submit its report. Following demand by Congress and TMC for more time, Ahluwalia decided to seek yet another extension from Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan as he wanted to submit a consensus report. This means that bill will come to Parliament only after assembly elections are over in the agrarian state of Bihar, where BJP is hoping to replace the incumbent Nitish Kumar government. Congress is using the NDA bill to paint the government as “anti-farmer”.Today’s meeting was expected to evolve consensus on three key provisions including the one on return of unutilised land to its owners after five years and the retrospective clause. However, only the retrospective clause was taken up briefly during which the Congress members vociferiously opposed any change in provision 24 (2) of the UPA Act, which has been diluted in the NDA bill. Sources in the panel said former Rural Development Minister and Congress member on the committee Jairam Ramesh walked out in a huff when told that his party was engaging in “delaying tactics”.However, Ahluwalia is learnt to have later persuaded Ramesh to return to the meeting. The UPA law stated the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 will continue to apply where an award has already been made.However, if such an award was made five years or more before the enactment of The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013 and physical possession of land had not been taken or compensation not paid, the UPA law will apply.The NDA bill prescribes that in calculating this time, any period during which the proceedings of acquisition were held up due to a stay order of a court, or a period specified in the award of a Tribunal for taking possession, or any period where possession has been taken but compensation is lying deposited in a court or any account, will not be counted. It basically amended Section 24(2) to exclude time spent under litigation where a stay order has been passed.Monday’s meeting saw the Congress members making it clear that they are opposed to chnages in the 24(2), which the govenment wanted to amend. The issue of section 24(2) was widely debated at the meeting of the panel on July 27 as well. It is learnt that the government had then told meeting that states like Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal, besides Chandigarh objected to section 24(2) of the Act and wanted it modified.As the decision to extend the time of the committee was taken immediately after disagreement on this point, other issues like the provision on returning unutilised land and period of review could not be taken up. Last week, the Committee had unanimously approved key changes in the Modi government’s bill including on the consent clause, that will restore the UPA law.The way for possible climb down by the government was facilitated by BJP members moving amendments in the Joint Committee of Parliament seeking to bring back key provisions of UPA’s land law, including the consent clause and social impact assessment by dropping the changes brought in by the Modi government in December last year and subsequently revalidated by ordinance thrice.The government had also expressed readiness to accept the recommendations of the committee, which has restored some dropped provisions of the UPA law, but insisted it was not a climbdown as it was always open to changes on which there was a consensus.With the panel deciding to submit its report to Parliament in Winter session, the government may to have re-promulgate the ordinance. This will be fourth promulgation of the ordinance since it was issued for the first time in December last year.

Parliament panel on land bill to discuss key clauses on Monday

The panel has already arrived at a unanimous agreement on six key issues, including bringing back the consent clause and social impact assessment in the proposed law and now aims at finalising its view on three other issues at the August 10 meeting

With Government keen on buying peace over the land bill, a Parliamentary panel examining it will try to evolve consensus on Monday on three key provisions including the one on return of unutilised land to its owners after five years.The panel has already arrived at a unanimous agreement on six key issues, including bringing back the consent clause and social impact assessment in the proposed law and now aims at finalising its view on three other issues at the August 10 meeting. It plans to submit the report the very next day, sources in the committee said. The government has also expressed readiness to accept the recommendations of the committee, which has restored some dropped provisions of the UPA law, but insisted it was not a climbdown as it was always open to changes on which there was a consensus.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The issues that will be on the table for the 30-member Joint Committee of Parliament headed by BJP MP S S Ahluwalia include the provision on returning unutilised land, time period for retrospective application for compensation under the new law and period of review. Under UPA’s land Act of 2013, the land acquired but not utilised for five years had to be returned to the original owners or the land bank. The NDA bill, however, provided for return of the unutilised land after either five years or any period specified at the time of setting up of a project, whichever was later.The amendment to section 113, according to which the power with the state to remove difficulties which might arise in giving effect to the provisions of the Act can only be exercised after a period of five years from the commencement of the Act, as opposed to a shorter period of two years under the 2013 Act, will also be taken up on Monday. Similarly, the UPA law stated the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 will continue to apply where an award has already been made. However, if such an award was made five years or more before the enactment of The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013 and physical possession of land had not been taken or compensation not been paid, the UPA law will apply.The NDA bill prescribes that in calculating this time, any period during which the proceedings of acquisition were held up due to a stay order of a court, or a period specified in the award of a Tribunal for taking possession, or any period where possession has been taken but compensation is lying deposited in a court or any account, will not be counted. It basically amended Section 24 (2) to exclude time spent under litigation where a stay order has been passed. The issue of section 24 (2) was widely debated at the meeting of the panel on July 27. It is learnt that Secretary Land Resources Vandana Kumari Jena said in the meeting that states like Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal, besides Chandigarh objected to section 24 (2) of the Act and wanted it modified.Samajwadi Party-ruled Uttar Pradesh had termed the clause as “problematic” which needed to be “re-examined”. It said the clause was creating problems in cases where acquisition was done for defence purposes, Jena told the panel. The provision relating to the return of unutilised land was also discussed threadbare and Jena told the panel that a number of states including Delhi had objected to it. While Delhi raised objections, contending that construction of houses under DDA are not finished within a period of five years after making the master plan and sought exemption from the provision, some states said implementing a five-year cap on atomic power plants and irrigation projects is difficult.The states also wanted clarity on the term “utilisation”, according to Jena. In the panel’s meeting on July 23, Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Amitabh Kant had advocated convergence of both environmental impact assessment and social impact assessment. Kant, in his submissions, had also said there was no need to take one kilometre of land on both sides of the Industrial Corridors as proposed in the bill as there is no such thing as Industrial Contiguous Corridor. He had instead suggested that National Industrial and Manufacturing Zones already in the UPA Act should be continued.The panel had on Monday approved changes in the Modi government’s land bill. The way for a climb-down by the government was paved when all 11 BJP members on the panel moved amendments seeking to bring back key provisions of the UPA’s land law, including the consent clause and social impact assessment, after dropping the changes brought in by the Modi dispensation in December last year and subsequently re-validated thrice through Ordinances.

Centre accepts Congress’ recommendations on land bill, withdraws changes to 2013 UPA Act

Soon after Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan suspended 25 Congress MPs’ for causing grave disorder in Parliament, the NDA government upped its game by accepting all recommendations by the Congress on the land bill.

Suggestions from other opposition parties have also been accepted. The government has reportedly also agreed to withdraw all changes that it wanted to incorporate in the existing bill.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

According to a news report on 28 July, Congress, CPM and JD-U had sought a “total withdrawal” of proposed changes by the NDA government in the 2013 Land Act and inclusion of some additional measures to further strengthen the law in favour of farmers.

In their suggestions on the proposed amendments in the 2015 land bill brought by Modi government, the parties rejected the government’s proposal to exempt projects for rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects, including public-private partnership (PPP) projects where the government owns the land from the mandatory obligation of implementing consent clause and carrying out a pre-acquisition social impact assessment.

Besides that, the Congress also pitched for a uniform four-time compensation in rural and urban areas from the existing market value of land. Sources in Congress said that it had sought restoration of the consent of 80 percent of land owners to be obtained for private projects and that of 70 percent for PPP ones.

In its list of amendments besides other things, the CPM demanded that land losers should also be given 20 percent of the profit accrued by industries set up on their land annually besides the existing compensation.

BJD and Trinamool Congress already wrote to the Joint Committee of Parliament about their amendments seeking total withdrawal of the NDA’s bill.

The strategy of Congress was to somehow get a majority of members in the panel to oppose the main amendments being brought by the government in the UPA’s Land Act.

The move on the land bill could have a positive impact as both Houses of Parliament are facing continuous logjam over the last eight days with the largest Opposition party not allowing any legislative business with its disruptive tactics.

The Congress MPs were carrying placards and shouting slogans in the Well while demanding resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje over the Lalit Modi row and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over Vyapam scam.

The Monsoon Session which has seen no business so far has a heap of important bills to take up including the Goods and Services Tax Bill, Land Bill, Real Estate Regulator Bill, Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill among others.

With PTI inputs

Government did not apply its mind on land bill and GST, says Congress leader Veerappa Moily

“Right from the beginning, we have been telling that there is no need for effecting such amendments through series of ordinances. There is some deficiency in this government. They first act, then think. They should first think, then act. The land bill is one of the examples. Even GST is also an example,” Moily said on the sidelines of an Assocham event.

Congress leader Veerappa Moily on Wednesday attacked the NDA government for bringing series of ordinances to amend the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 saying the current dispensation showed lack of application of mind on this key issue.Not only on the land bill, the government has not applied its mind while proposing key changes to the Goods and Service Tax (GST) bill, he added.”Right from the beginning, we have been telling that there is no need for effecting such amendments through series of ordinances. There is some deficiency in this government. They first act, then think. They should first think, then act. The land bill is one of the examples. Even GST is also an example,” Moily said on the sidelines of an Assocham event.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Moily is also the chairperson of Parliamentary standing committee on finance.The NDA government has proposed some changes to the 2013 Land Act through an ordinance in December last year. The bill to replace the ordinance was passed by Lok Sabha but could not be put to vote in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP is in minority. Hence, the ordinance was re-promulgated twice.At present, there is a political slugfest over the Ordinances with opposition Congress, CPI-M and JD-U seeking “total withdrawal” of proposed changes by the NDA government in the 2013 Land Act and inclusion of some additional measures to further strengthen the law in favour of farmers.On the GST bill, Moily said, “We are supporting it with modification we suggested… it is premature to say whether proposed changes will be accepted.”The select committee of Rajya Sabha has examined this matter and the Congress party has given a dissent note also, he said, adding that it would be good if the government looks into those issues with pragmatic approach.Asked if the GST bill would be passed in the ongoing session of Parliament, he said that the government is “anxious” about it so that is implemented from April, 2016.”However, there is a big process involved. This is only a constitutional framework for GST. The centre has to pass an GST Act. Each state will have to pass an GST Act. It is a long way…,” he said.Moily also said that the GST has to be done but it should be done with direct tax code. “Both together will definitely have holistic approach for the tax reforms.” Rajya Sabha select panel has submitted its suggestions to the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill on GST and the government is still looking into them.

Congress, CPI (M), JD(U) for ‘total withdrawal’ of Land Bill proposed by Centre

Sources in Congress said that it had sought restoration of the consent of 80 per cent of land owners to be obtained for private projects and that of 70 per cent for PPP ones.
File Photo
PTI photo
Congress, CPI-M and JD-U have sought a “total withdrawal” of proposed changes by the NDA government in the 2013 Land Act and inclusion of some additional measures to further strengthen the law in favour of farmers.In their suggestions on the proposed amendments in the 2015 land bill brought by Modi government, the parties have rejected the government’s proposal to exempt projects for rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects, including public-private partnership (PPP) projects where the government owns the land from the mandatory obligation of implementing consent clause and carrying out a pre-acquisition social impact assessment.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Besides that, the Congress has pitched for a uniform four-time compensation in rural and urban areas from the existing market value of land.Sources in Congress said that it had sought restoration of the consent of 80 per cent of land owners to be obtained for private projects and that of 70 per cent for PPP ones.In its list of amendments besides other things, the CPI-M has demanded that land losers should also given 20 per cent of the profit accrued by industries set up on their land annually besides the existing compensation.BJD and Trinamool Congress have already written to the Joint Committee of Parliament about their amendments seeking total withdrawal of the NDA’s bill.The strategy of Congress is to somehow get a majority of members in the panel to oppose the main amendments being brought by the government in the UPA’s Land Act.A meeting called at the residence of NCP chief Sharad Pawar today saw members of Congress, Trinamool Congress and CPI-M pitching for “total withdrawal” of the NDA’s land bill and the Opposition making some common cause on the issue even with NDA ally Shiv Sena, which has been opposing the bill.Sources in the Sena said that the stand of the NDA ally will depend what kind of bill the government brings. If the government addresses the major concerns of the party through the official amendments in the bill, it can support the bill as well, the sources said.Leaders in the Opposition camp, however, said that the Sena is broadly in agreement with their views opposing amendments like doing away with consent clause of SIA and they are hopeful that the NDA ally will not back the government on this contentious measure.Today’s meeting at Pawar’s residence was aimed exploring the possibility work out a joint amendment, the sources said.

Rahul Gandhi woos farmers in Rajasthan, attacks PM Modi on land bill

Undertaking an 8-km ‘padyatra’ in the villages of the desert state, a day after Congress chief ministers boycotted the NITI Aayog meeting convened by the Prime Minister on the contentious legislation, Rahul also attacked Narendra Modi for his “silence” on corruption.

File picture

PTI
Continuing his relentless assault on the Modi government over the land bill, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday vowed not to allow it acquire “even an inch of land” as he reached out to the farmers of Rajasthan with a foot march.Undertaking an 8-km ‘padyatra’ in the villages of the desert state, a day after Congress chief ministers boycotted the NITI Aayog meeting convened by the Prime Minister on the contentious legislation, Rahul also attacked Narendra Modi for his “silence” on corruption. “You are being subjected to oppression. I have come here today to assure you that Congress party will fight with the BJP and NDA not just in Rajasthan but in the entire country.We will not let them take even a single inch of land. We will not allow the BJP to move forward a single inch.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”You should not worry. Congress is a party of the poor, farmers and labourers. Whenever you are troubled, you will find the Congress party by your side,” he said. Rahul, who has reached out to farmers with ‘padyatra’ in various parts of the country including Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh in recent months mounting pressure on the Centre on the land bill, also attacked Modi for his silence on corruption.”The Prime Minister said he will not take bribe himself nor will allow anybody else to take it. He never said he will keep quiet and say nothing when corruption takes place,” the Congress vice president said addressing villagers in Khotanwali, Surawali and Amarsingh wala, where his padyatra ended in Hanumangarh district. He raked up a host of controversies including the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh and the “mini-Modi” issue in Rajasthan, apparently referring to Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s links with the controversial former IPL boss Lalit Modi, wanted by the Enforcement Directorate for questioning in connection with alleged money laundering related to the T20 cricket tournament.Taking on the Modi government and Raje on her own turf, he said, “Probably the number of issues BJP, Narendra Modi and the Rajasthan Chief Minister have given to Congress party we could not have even imagined. They gave us the land issue and issues of tribals, corruption, the Vyapam scam and that of Mini-Modi issue here.” “There is corruption of different kinds in Rajasthan. You all know of the Chief Minister’s corruption…you are being subjected to oppression and killed. The future of your children is being snatched away,” he said and assured the farmers that Congress will stand like a “wall” before them whenever they are subjected to oppression. Rahul is on a two-day visit to Rajasthan during which he will undertake a padayatra and address a PCC convention and meet with civil society members. Rahul held a ‘public hearing’ in Khotawali village where farmers shared there grievances with him. He met veteran Congress leader Shyokaran Ram at his residence before commencing the eight-kilometre march accompanied by former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, State Congress Committee President Sachin Pilot and AICC General Secretary Gurudas Kamat.By asking its chief ministers to boycott the NITI Aayog meeting on the land bill yesterday, Congress has sent a clear message it will take further its battle against the Modi government on the issue in Parliament during the Monsoon Session. Rahul had led the opposition attack against the bill both outside and within Parliament during the Budget Session where he alleged the “suit-boot ki sarkar” had neglected the farmers and was working only for capitalists.

Anna Hazare to launch nationwide stir over OROP and Land Acquisition Bill

Social activist Anna Hazare on Tuesday said a countrywide agitation will be launched over the issues of One Rank One Pension (OROP) and the Land Acquisition Bill.

Social activist Anna Hazare on Tuesday said a countrywide agitation will be launched over the issues of One Rank One Pension (OROP) and the Land Acquisition Bill.”I will inform you about the date of the agitation in my next letter to you,” Hazare said in a letter sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We have to take care of our soldiers and farmers. Making hollow announcements for their welfare and actually implementing them are different things,” Hazare stated in his letter.In a democracy, the government should listen to woes of the people, Hazare said. “I wish to reiterate that my agitation is not political,” Hazare’s letter stated. PTI VT BA<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>

Give all info on Priyanka Vadra’s land purchase, says HP state info commission

Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh State Information Commission today rejected the contention that information regarding purchase of land by Priyanka Vadra cannot be given for security reasons, and directed the concerned authorities to provide all information in this regard to an RTI activist within ten days.

RTI activist Debasheesh Bhattacharya had sought information about the land purchased by Priyanka at Chharabra, 12-Km from here, but the information was refused by Public Information Office which maintained that it cannot be divulged for security reasons as she was a SPG protectee.

PTI imagePTI image

PTI image

The Appellate Authority (the Deputy Commissioner) also rejected the appeal.

The RTI activist had filed appeal with the State information Commission division bench, comprising Chief Information Commissioner Bhim Sen and Information Commissioner K.D. Batish, which directed the Additional District Magistrate, Shimla, to give the information within ten days.

The Commission also issued notice to the Deputy Commissioner and the ADM that why penalty should not be imposed on them for delaying the information and fixed next hearing on July 23 next.

Priyanka Vadra is constructing a house near Chharabra and had purchased over 4.25 Bighas of land between 2007 and 2013 in an alleged relaxation of section 118 of Tenancy and Land  Reforms Act that bars any non-agriculturist from purchasing land without the permission of the government.

PTI

CBI files FIR against Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela in NTC land scam

New Delhi: CBI has registered a case against former Union Textiles Minister Shankersinh Vaghela and five others for selling over 27,000 square metre of prime National Textile Corporation property in Mumbai to a private company allegedly at “throwaway prices”, causing loss of over Rs 700 crore to the exchequer.

CBI registered an FIR against Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela. IBNLive

CBI registered an FIR against Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela. IBNLive

CBI sources said, after an year-long inquiry, the agency has registered an FIR under IPC sections related to criminal conspiracy and cheating and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act concerning criminal misconduct.

Besides former Gujarat Chief Minister Vaghela, those named in the FIR are the then Chairman-cum-Managing Director of National Textile Corporation K Ramachandran Pillai, its the then Director (Technical) RK Sharma, Senior Manager (Legal) MK Khare and a Kolkata-based private firm and its Director, the sources said.

Soon after registering the FIR, CBI on Wednesday carried out searches at the residence of Vaghela in Gandhinagar, houses of Pillai, Sharma and Khare in New Delhi, offices of NTC and in Mumbai and the residence of the private company Director in Kolkata.

The case pertains to the sale of NTC property in the posh Worli area of Mumbai to the Kolkata-based firm at a meagre Rs 29.35 crore.

“It was alleged that the accused entered into a criminal conspiracy and transferred the land at Mumbai owned by NTC to a Kolkata-based private firm in a wrongful manner, for a total consideration of Rs 29.35 crore (approx), whereas the actual value of the land was much higher. An alleged loss of Rs 709.27 crore (approx.) was caused to the government exchequer,” CBI Press Information Officer RK Gaur said in New Delhi.

It is alleged during UPA regime, Vaghela, who moved from BJP to Congress, had overruled recommendations of his ministry officials suggesting that NTC must give a detailed plan on the evaluation of the land before nod for settlement with the private company is given, the CBI sources said.

The property in question is part of over 80,785 square metre land of “sick” Madhusudan Mills which was taken over by NTC under the Textile Undertakings (Taking Over of Management) Act, 1983 and the Textiles Undertakings (Nationalisation) Act, 1995.

The CBI sources said all the assets of the company were transferred to the central government through NTC and suitable amount was paid as compensation to Madhusudan Mills.

NTC had decided to give 27,585 square metre of the land at Rs 29.35 crore to a Kolkata-based private company for re-developing it in a move to reach a settlement in July, 2009.

It is alleged that in the process of settling of issues regarding taking over of assets and liabilities of the said firm, Vaghela overruled the opinion of senior officers of the Textiles Ministry seeking a comprehensive proposal from NTC, owning the land, including the actual valuation of the land for settlement of the issues, the FIR alleged.

Vaghela allegedly abused his official position to approve the sharing of the land in the ratio of 65:35 in favour of the Kolkata-based private company and its owner, it claimed.

The FIR alleged that accordingly 35 percent of the land was transferred to the Kolkata-based company against the consideration of Rs 29.35 crore which was lower than actual cost of the land, causing loss of Rs 709.27 crore to the exchequer.

During the searches, CBI recovered Rs 13.30 lakh in cash from Vaghela’s residence, documents of fixed deposit of Rs 1.65 crore from the residence of Pillai, and two lockers and credit card from the residence of Sharma and FD of Rs 45 lakh and one locker from Khare’s residence, the sources said.

PTI

Cabinet nod for land ordinance’s re-promulgation, Rahul accuses Modi of ‘land grab’ yet again

New Delhi:The union cabinet on Saturday gave its approval to the re-promulgation of the land acquisition ordinance, triggering strong criticism from opposition parties including the Congress whose leader Rahul Gandhi accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being “in an amazing hurry to grab land from the poor farmers at any cost”.

The move was also criticised by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

The cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its approval to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015. This will be the third time it will be promulgated.

The ordinance was first promulgated in December last year to amend the act passed during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2013. An official release said that changes in the 2013 Act “will facilitate farmers to get better compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement benefits” in lieu of land compulsorily acquired by the government.

Modi in an interview to The Tribune published on Saturday said that no decision taken by his government concerning the land bill was “anti-farmer”. He said chief ministers insisted on a change in the 2013 Act and he thought of addressing their anxieties.

PTI image.PTI image.

PTI image.

Asked by the newspaper if he was confident of the bill’s passage, Modi said it was not a question of life and death for him and it was not on the agenda of his party and the government. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha with official amendments in March but was not taken up in the Rajya Sabha where the government lacks a majority.

The land ordinance was again promulgated in April.

With the Congress and several other opposition parties firmly opposed to the bill brought by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, it was referred to the joint committee of parliament.

The recommendation for re-promulgation of the ordinance will be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee.

Gandhi hit out at the prime minister over the decision.

“Modi ji in an amazing hurry to grab land from poor farmers at any cost. A 3rd attempt at pushing the anti farmer Land Ordinance!”

“Congress Party will continue to fight for the rights of the kisan and mazdoor against this #suitbootkisarkar,” he said in a series of tweets.

Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said the government decision for re-promulgating the ordinance was an “insult” to parliament, “which had refused to pass the anti-farmer bill”, and “a gross injustice” with farmers of the country.

“On the one hand, the BJP-led government forms a joint committee to have a re-look at the bill, on the other hand it plays a cruel trick,” he said, demanding the decision be immediately taken back.

In Bihar, which will face assembly elections soon, Nitish Kumar said the Modi government was “trying to impose” the land bill on protesting farmers and it will prove costly.

Speaking to reporters in Patna, he alleged that the prime minister was concerned about the interest of corporates, despite the bill being opposed by people and different political parties, except the BJP and its allies.

IANS

No yielding on Land Acquisition Ordinance: Union cabinet recommends promulgation for third time

New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Saturday recommended re-promulgation of the controversial Land Acquisition Ordinance. The land ordinance will be issued for the third time.

Reuters imageReuters image

Reuters image

The Ordinance was promulgated for the first time in December last year to amend the 2013 Act. Despite being passed in Lok Sabha, the government did not take it to Rajya Sabha as it lacked numbers there.

The ordinance was re-promulgated in March this year and will lapse on 4 June. The recommendation of the Union Cabinet will be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee for its approval.

The government, which had promulgated the ordinance twice on the bill since December after it faced continuous resistance especially in Rajya Sabha, where it does not have the numbers, had agreed to refer it to the committee, during the recently concluded Parliament session.

The first meeting of joint Committee of Parliament on the contentious land bill yesterday saw a number of Opposition members raising questions over the rationale of the government changing provisions of the 2013 land law.

Expressing dissatisfaction over the government’s arguments in favour of the bill, the members had demanded a “composite” inter-ministerial reply on the issue.”

At the meeting, the Rural Development Ministry and Legislative department in the Law Ministry had made a presentation to members on the amendments made to the The Right To Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

As the officials of the two ministries explained the amendments, members from the Opposition parties including Congress, BJD, TMC and the Left had raised questions over the rationale of doing away with the consent clause while acquiring land.

While the 2013 law required that the consent of 80 per cent of land owners was obtained for private projects and that the consent of 70 per cent of land owners be obtained for PPP projects, the present bill exempts the five categories from this provision of the Act.

These categories include defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects including public private partnership (PPP) projects where the government owns the land.

The 2013 Act also required that a social impact assessment be conducted to identify affected families and calculate the social impact when land is acquired. This provision has been done away with.

PTI

Repromulgation of Land Bill an ‘affront to Parliament: Congress

The Congress Party on Saturday slammed the Centre for the repromulgation of the Land Bill, terming the move an ‘affront’ to the Parliament’ and ‘travesty of justice’ for the farmers.

The Congress Party on Saturday slammed the Centre for the repromulgation of the Land Bill, terming the move an ‘affront’ to the Parliament’ and ‘travesty of justice’ for the farmers. “The repromulgation of the Land Ordinance by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government for a third time is a cruel breach of faith and a travesty of justice with India’s farmers. It is an affront to the Parliament, which refused to put its stamp of approval on the bill,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”This proves the duplicity of the Prime Minister, who stands exposed: who only yesterday said that his government is open to reviewing the anti-farmer Land Ordinance. The Congress condemns this sinister design of the Prime Minister Modi government to surreptitiously push through the Land Ordinance after agreeing to get it re-examined through a Joint Committee of the Parliament. The Congress demands that the government should forthwith withdraw the ordinance and apologize to the nation for its subversive designs,” he added. The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Modi, today approved the repromulgation of the Land Acquisition Bill.The ordinance, which is currently with the Joint Committee of the Parliament for a detailed discussion on its provisions, is due to expire on June 3.

Open to changes in land bill that will benefit poor, farmers: Modi

New Delhi: Amendments in the land acquisition bill in the interest of farmers, poor, village and nation will be accepted, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday asserting that along with GST bill the measure will be passed by Parliament in “a matter of time”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

“Gaon, Garib, Kisan (village, poor and farmers): if the suggestions are favourable to these downtrodden groups and are in the interests of the nation, we will accept those suggestions,” he told PTI in an interview.

He was asked whether the government would accommodate the views of the Opposition since there is a deadlock on the land bill. Both the land and GST bills have been referred to parliamentary committees and government is hoping they will be passed in the monsoon session of Parliament.

To a question on the pace of economic reforms being affected by the problems faced on crucial legislations like Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Land Bill in Rajya Sabha, the Prime Minister said both the measures were beneficial for the country.

“The core essence of these Bills should be appreciated by all the parties keeping aside political motives. Long term interest of the nation should be foremost.

“The fact that the States have agreed to the GST design, shows the maturity of our federal system and the GST Bill has already been passed by the Lok Sabha. It is a matter of time before these laws are passed,” he said.

To another question on what kind of message would foreign investors get if reform measures are not passed, he said, “One of the peculiarities of Delhi is that the term ‘reform’ is associated only with passing of laws in Parliament.”

In fact, he said, the most important reforms needed are those without new laws, at various levels of Government, in work practices and procedures.

“We have initiated a number of major reforms. These include decontrol of diesel prices, direct transfer of cooking gas subsidy, enhancement of FDI limits, revamping of railways and many others.

“The truth is that reform has actually been pushed very fast and in fact as a result FDI has already witnessed an increase of 39 per cent in the period April 2014 to February 2015 compared to the previous year,” the Prime Minister said.

Answering acquisitions that the land bill was to benefit the corporates, Modi said he did not want to get into political mudslinging.

“However I do want to ask whether those who allotted coal mines and forest land, rich with mineral resources, to their favourite corporates have the moral right to question this government which is working ceaselessly for the welfare of all sections of society,” he said.

Without naming Congress, Modi said, he was astonished that even after running a government for 60 years, the ones asking these questions have such poor knowledge of administration and governance.

“The whole country knows that the subject of land is not with the Central Government and the Centre does not require lands. All rights relating to land are with the states.

“The 120 year old land acquisition act was amended by the previous government without even 120 minutes of discussion in Parliament. Thinking the bill was good for farmers, we also supported it at that time. Later many complaints came from the states. We cannot disrespect the wishes of states.

“One should not be so arrogant as to avoid correcting mistakes, so we brought the bill to rectify the errors, that too in response to the demand of the states. Anyone who looks at our proposed amendments without politically-tinted glasses will give us full marks,” he said.

PTI

Farmers to get 5-times compensation for land acquisition

Rawal, along with a delegation of project-affected land owners, had met Khadse yesterday at Mantralaya. He had requested the minister to resolve the issue of land acquisition as the 3,300 MW thermal power project was stuck in his constituency.

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Agencies
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The farmers in Dondaicha constituency in Dhule district will be the first beneficiaries of five times higher compensation for land acquisition following the new rate announced by the Maharashtra government.The coal-based thermal power project was stuck in BJP legislator Jaykumar Rawal’s constituency for the last two years as farmers opposed the land acquisition process and waited for a new Bill after it was introduced in Parliament by the then UPA government.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to state Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse, farmers will be content and allow their land to be acquired if they get a compensation higher than their expectations.”We have recently taken the decision to compensate two-and-half times more than the cost of land by ready reckoner (RR) rate for its acquisition in urban area. Whereas land owner in rural area will get five times more compensation than the rate of RR,” he said.A wave of farmers’ suicides has hit rural India over the last few years, with reported estimates of 10,000 succumbing annually – Getty ImagesElaborating on the decision, the minister said, “For a land worth Rs 100, the land owner will get Rs 400 and Rs 100 as additional 25 per cent compensation in rural areas. That means he will get five times more compensation.” In urban areas, a land owner will get double the compensation than the rate of RR and if the land is purchased with open negotiations, he will get two-and-half times compensation than that of the RR rate, Khadse said.”The government resolution was issued on May 12 this year and first beneficiary will be from BJP legislator Jaykumar Rawal’s constituency Dondaicha in Dhule district,” he said.Rawal, along with a delegation of project-affected land owners, had met Khadse yesterday at Mantralaya. He had requested the minister to resolve the issue of land acquisition as the 3,300 MW thermal power project was stuck in his constituency.”When farmers or land owners get five times the compensation, they will happily give away their land for the project. The issue will be resolved very soon and the project will be completed in the upcoming years,” Khadse said.

Maharashtra government decides to create land bank for building cheaper houses

One lakh affordable houses in the next three yrs, 6 lakh in six years are the two targets set

Sudhir Shetty
dna
The Maharashtra government has decided to create land bank so that huge chunks of land can be used for construction of affordable houses.The state has prepared a draft of the new housing policy and it will soon be published for suggestions and objections. As per the draft policy guidelines, the state will create land banks in the city and the metropolitan region.”The land will be exclusively reserved in the proposed development plan for construction of affordable houses. It will be in proportion to the population of affordable categories. The cost of the land is the main factor that affects affordability. So, it is necessary to pool together pieces of land from various sources, besides the government-owned plots,” says the policy.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A senior government official from the state housing department said once the land is pooled, as per the draft, a master plan of it will be required. “It will help keep prices of affordable houses in check. The planned houses will be circumstanced with civic and social infrastructure to ensure that residents enjoy quality life,” the official said, adding that all these aspects are at a rudimentary stage.The draft policy also says FSI can be alternatively defined as function of supporting infrastructure. “The permissible FSI should be accompanied by optimum social and civic infrastructure. It should be in consonance with appropriate density of the population of that particular area. Rise in FSI won’t address the problem of shortage in affordable homes. The excessive land available with Mhada, BMC, MMRDA and other government agencies should be used for boosting sustainable affordable housing. Also, there’s a lot of unproductive land available after industries in MIDC zones relocated. That land too should be used for affordable houses,” adds the policy.The affordable housing stock needs to be allocated in 50:30:20 ratio to the Economically Weaker Section (EWS), Lower Income Group and Middle Income Group, respectively. “The draft policy, once approved, should be implemented on a war footing by constructing 1 lakh affordable housing units in the next three years, and six lakh such homes in the next six years to meet the growing demand. Having abundant supply (of homes) will also ease the skyrocketing prices,” said another housing department official.The draft adds, “The pooled land bank should be fully exploited for affordable housing only. The task of bringing the prices of such houses within the reach of EWS/LIG/MIG may be facilitated by forgoing profit from the project.The regulatory authority needs to prescribe city-wise price caps, which shall be dynamic and revised every year in April. As another effort to keep prices in check, it is suggested to make sand and metal, which is quarried with government’s permission, available at concessional prices. The government may reserve certain sand lots only for this project, at a price 20% below the average auction price. Similarly, the crushed metal can also be made available at a controlled rate.””The quality of construction needs to be monitored through third-party checks, by a separate machinery under the regulatory authority. The approval processes in corporation need to be brought down to only three levels.Projects should be approved within 30 days from the date of the submission,” the draft policy states.

Relief for home buyers! SC upholds land acquisition in Noida

Home buyers in Noida and Greater Noida can finally heave a sigh of relief as the Supreme Court of India has upheld land acquisition done in the region by the respective local authorities between 2006 and 2009.

The apex court today dismissed all petitions from Noida &amp Greater Noida stating that land acquisition will not be quashed.

Representational image. AFP.Representational image. AFP.

Representational image. AFP.

The order is a relief for builders else buildings would have been demolished but it is a setback for farmers who had wanted more compensation. The farmers were demanding their land back while Greater Noida authority was unwilling to give back the developed land.

“The Supreme Court dismissed all petitions land acquisition. Farmers wanted some more compensation but that has not been accepted by the Supreme Court. This verdict will impact 65 villages of Noida and Greater Noida,” a lawyer told CNN IBN.

A report in Economic Times said the court upheld an earlier order by the Allahabad High Court, which had also said that land will not be given back to farmer but had asked the two authorities to raise the compensation amount by 64.7% and also give 10% of developed land to farmers. Farmers had later protested this and had asked for their land back, filing petitions against the land acquisition.

No one involved in Moga molestation case will be spared: Harsimrat Kaur Badal

Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said on Saturday that no one involved in the Moga incident will be spared and perpetrators of the crime would get “severest” of punishment as per the law of the land.

Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said on Saturday that no one involved in the Moga incident will be spared and perpetrators of the crime would get “severest” of punishment as per the law of the land.The Food Processing minister also expressed deep pain and anguish over the unfortunate incident in which a teenage girl was allegedly molested and pushed to death from a moving Orbit bus in Moga on April 29.In a statement issued here, she said such type of incidents were totally “unwarranted and unjustified”. The minister said that she was deeply peeved over the incident.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>She said that the day when this incident took place, she had moved early to the Parliament house due to the ongoing session.Badal said that she was completely “ignorant” about the involvement of Orbit bus in the matter when mediapersons put a series of questions related to the incident that day before her.She said that she was fully aware that their family owned a transport business in the name of Orbit since 1947 and there was hardly anything in concealing it.

Abduction of 300 villagers: Revival of Salwa Judum could trigger new Maoist-state war

Raigarh: The alleged abduction of 300 villagers by Maoists in Sukma before the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi could mark the beginning of another phase of intense confrontation between the state and the Left ultras in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. The government appears to have sent out the impression to the Maoists that it would renew Salwa Judum without making it official and the latter seem to be responding to that through the ‘kidnapping’.

Five days prior to this incident, a press conference in Bastar left little doubt on the re-launch of the decidedly controversial ‘Salwa Judum’ movement targeting the Maoists in the area. It was addressed by the associates of late Mahendra Karma, a Congress leader who was killed along with many of his party colleagues in a Maoist attack two years ago. The leadership of this to-be-revived movement, the media was informed, would be in the hands of Chhavindra, the lesser known son of Karma, and Sukhdeo Tati, an old RSS hand in the area and others.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Salwa Judum, loosely translated as ‘Peace March’, was launched as a movement against the Naxal presence in the area. The militia consisting of the tribal youth and children, armed, financed, trained and supported by the government soon became controversial. The use of the poorly trained tribals by the government for its counter insurgency drives and the resultant human rights violations and atrocities were heavily criticised and opposed generally. Acting on a public interest litigation moved by Prof Nandini Sundar and others, the Supreme Court declared the militia illegal and unconstitutional and ordered its disbanding in 2011.

If the state government has realised that the time for it to take visibly decisive action against the Maoists, the reasons are understandable. It is under immense pressure to be seen to be doing so. What is perplexing however is the complete silence of the government over the public announcement to revive the Salwa Judum movement.

“It is contempt of the Supreme Court,” says Alok Shukla of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan. “Thousands of tribals were killed at the hands of the fellow tribals at the behest of the government of the day simply because it wanted to clear the land for the industrialists to come and occupy it. How an announcement of the revival of a movement like this can be made on the eve of the Prime Minister’s visit without the implicit consent of the government?” wonders Shukla.

When looked in the backdrop Modi’s visit, the announcement of Salwa Judum doesn’t appear too out of place though.

Shankar Sodhi, a senior tribal leader from Bastar and a minister in the first Congress government in the state explains, “This is nothing but an attempt by the state government to assure the industry of its determination to clear the area for them. It has done this earlier and failed. The visit of the prime minister would have had some meaning if it had to be associated with the inauguration of a project. Today he has just signed an MoU. Already thousands of MoUs worth thousands of zeros are gathering dust in Raipur. This would become one such MoU if the core issue of land is not tackled first.”

Land is the core issue indeed. Industrial houses like the Tatas and Essars that have been handed over land in the area years ago, mostly in 2005, have not been able to take possession of it and start operations due to the Maoists’ threat looming large. With the Congress under a resurgent Rahul Gandhi bringing the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act into focus, the going is not likely to be smooth for industrial houses. The Congress has started hammering one particular provision which says if the industrial house does not begin operations in five years, the allotment should be cancelled and land returned to the original owners. The state Congress is in the final stages of planning a visit by Rahul Gandhi to Chhattisgarh in the near future, and invocation of this provision, in all likelihood, is going to be the mainstay of his campaign here.

“The UPA had safeguarded the interests of the landowners in the Act which the present government is trying to circumvent through ordinances. We will now allow it to happen,” says Anil Agarwal, secretary of the Chhattisgarh State Congress party.

The Maoists have not taken the threat to their dominance lightly. This they demonstrated by managing to carve out a rather thick slice out of the news space by taking 300 villagers hostage in a village not very far from the venue of the Prime Minister’s programme. The Maoists had plastered walls and trees with posters asking people to boycott PM’s functions at Dantewada on Saturday.

The BJP under Raman Singh first came to power in 2003. Its first tactical approach to handle the Maoist problem was to join hands with people like Congress leader Mahendra Karma in Bastar. Karma was the leader of the opposition in the assembly then. Karma was the first public figure to publicly defy Maoists presence in Bastar. In 1991, he had started a movement called ‘Jan Jaagran Abhiyan’ to counter the Maoists who were in the early stages of strengthening their hold in the area then. It fizzled out by 1996, mainly due to the lack of an organisational support.

Karma who started his political career as a CPI MLA, was elected to the Lok Sabha from Bastar as an independent in 1996. He had joined Madhav Rao Scindia’s three-member team under the banner of Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress in the post-hawala days. Karma joined the Congress thereafter and tried to revive the movement in the next two years without much success. Raman Singh understandably extended his hand to Karma. A series of meetings resulted in 2005 what came to be known, rather infamously, as ‘Salwa Judum’.

Gudsa Usendi, the Maoist leader, through a press release on Friday had warned people against getting involved with the Salwa Judum – 2. There is a serious possibility that the villagers, who were rounded up by the Maoists and held hostage, were those ‘requisitioned’ by the organisers of the public meeting by the PM to attend and swell it.

Assam included in India-Bangladesh land swap agreement: All you need to know about the deal

The union cabinet on Tuesday cleared a bill to operationalise the land boundary agreement with Bangladesh which entails exchange of enclaves by both countries.

The decision to approve the Constitution (119th Amendment Bill), 2013, on the land boundary agreement was taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Press Information Bureau director general Frank Norhona said.

The bill includes exchange of territories in Assam, West Bengal, Tripura and Meghalaya.

The constitutional amendment bill for ratification of the agreement is expected to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

The move to include Assam in the land swap deal was taken after Assam CM Tarun Gogoi on Monday had charged Prime Minister Narendra Modi of practising “double standards for narrow political gain” by proposing to exclude the state from the deal.

“The Prime Minister had last year said here that the agreement is good for Assam. Now why are you excluding it? You have one stand before poll and another after. It is double standard for narrow political gains,” Gogoi had said.

Arun Jaitley and the BJP may have firmly stood against the Land Border Agreement in the Rajya Sabha in 2013, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after coming to power, had decided to finally operationalise the contentious Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh, which may just bring to close a land deal that has been over 40 years in the offing.

After Modi’s announcement, a Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs had tabled its report in which it recommended that the constitution amendment bill be moved to end the boundary issue between the two nations. Chairman of the panel, Shashi Tharoor, had said that the report had been unanimously passed by the committee, including by members from the Trinamool Congress.

How long has this deal been in the offing?

The current Land Boundary Agreement was signed between the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka in September 2011.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

However, the original deal between the two nations was originally signed as far back as 1974. The Indira Gandhi –  Sheikh Mujib Land Boundary agreement in 1974 had seen both countries agree to exchange the enclaves of land that both countries had within each other’s territory. India even agreed to forgo compensation for land that would be transferred to Bangladesh.

The enclaves of land lie in the states of Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura and in some cases there are even Indian sub-enclaves within Bangladesh enclaves and vice-versa.

So what happens under the deal?

As this explainer by the Indian Express points out, there are 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh spread over 17,000 acres and 51 Bangladesh enclaves in India spread over 7,110 acres.

The land swap is largely seen as a procedural matter presently since most of the people within the enclaves would prefer to stay where they are located and the movement of people across borders as a result of the agreement is expected to be minimal.

The population in all the enclaves is estimated to be around 51,549 people in total of which 37,334 are reportedly Indians in Bangladesh.

So what happened after the 1974 agreement?

Bangladesh’s Parliament ratified the agreement but India did not. When the UPA-II attempted to move the constitutional amendment bill in Parliament, it was strongly opposed by regional parties like the Trinamool Congress and Asom Gana Parishad.

The BJP strongly opposed the bill in Parliament with the then leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley declaring in a letter that the territory of India is a part of the Constitution. “It cannot be reduced or altered by an amendment to the Constitution,” he had written at the time.

The BJP had said there was no question of transferring land to Bangladesh under the agreement but later gave enough leeway for the bill to be tabled in the Upper House of Parliament before it was adjourned sine die. It was referred to a standing committee.

How does it benefit the people living there?

For people living in these enclaves, being surrounded by the territory of another country means that they have no access to any of the government services they are entitled to.

India is expected to lose 40 square kilometres under the agreement but the move is expected to finally resolves a procedural complication.

How is Modi changing the party’s stance on the issue?

Modi, during the rally in Assam where he promised to enforce the agreement, said that it will end illegal migration from Bangladesh into India.

“Believe in my word that land swapping deal will be done for a permanent solution to this problem of Assam,” Modi said.

Modi said handing over of land (to Bangladesh) will be done only to ensure security of people of Assam and the border and not for “any harm” to the state.

On the land swapping agreement, the Prime Minister said he is aware of sentiments of the people of the state and there will be no compromise to Assam’s security.

While the regional parties like Asom Gana Parishad and Trinamool Congress are expected to rake up the matter as a loss of territory to Bangladesh, the Prime Minister has attempted to placate his own party activists by saying that it would ensure better security and end illegal migration, which itself has been a contentious issue in the states.

The move, this DNA piece points out, could also help co-operation between the Modi government and the Awami League government in Bangladesh that could also help battle cross border terorrism.

The Prime Minister has shown that despite the acrimony created by his party over various legislation moved by the previous UPA government, he isn’t averse to implementing them. From the Aadhaar scheme to the Land Boundary Agreement, Modi has cherry picked legislation from the previous government to be implemented, despite the Congress crying foul about it.

The Prime Minister may have to sweet-talk his party by making it all about security, but the Land Boundary agreement between the two countries could achieve a lot more for the residents of the enclaves in the two countries.

(With agency inputs)

No love lost from Jats: How PM Modi is losing grip over a dedicated vote bank

Sheroo Goenka runs a small shop in the heart of Rajasthan’s Churu district. But when elections are round the corner, he shuts shop and spends most of his time and energy on campaigning for the BJP, especially the party’s local heavyweight MLA Rajendra Rathore. In and around his district, Goenka, 45, is known as an avid BJP bhakt, a man who would do anything to ensure his deities remain in power.

In the 2013 election, when Vasundhara Raje became the chief minister, Goenka was ecstatic, not just because the BJP won a landslide victory. Like many others in Shekhawati, Sheroo had placed a satta (bet) on the Congress not winning more than 40 seats. The Congress obliged him by winning less than 25 out of 200.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a file photo. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi in a file photo. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a file photo. PTI

Goenka, the quintessential BJP bhakt and desi psephologist, has another prediction as Modi completes one year and Raje 18 months in power. “The BJP will be wiped out if there is an election for the Vidhan Sabha tomorrow. People still expect Modi to do something, but that hope is fading.”

The reason behind Goenka’s pessimism — echoed by many others on the ground — is simple: Nothing is moving on the ground; people are angry and disillusioned.

“As the Modi government approaches its first anniversary, the prime minister is being encircled. The greatest performances, it seems, now happen abroad. In Apna Desh, it’s tough going. This dichotomy is now quite visible, to even his supporters. Last week, in BJP circles, an SMS was in circulation: ‘We are pleased to announce the fifth visit in the last 10 months of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Republic of India. The MEA believes this shows the strategic importance of India.’ The fact that people who were in raptures over Modi just months ago now resort to sarcastic jokes about his reign underlines the beginning of anti-incumbency, also visible in the Delhi elections in February this year,” argues Outlook in its latest cover story.

Two recent developments have changed the mood and perception on the ground: The noise around Modi’s Land Acquisition Bill — considered anti-poor and pro-corporate — and the tepid government response to loss to crops in fields across north India because of unseasonal rain in March.

According to government estimates, crops in 189-lakh hectare were damaged due to inclement weather. The government says it is trying to do its best. But real relief has not reached farmers, especially because the crop-insurance schemes the government was banking on for immediate succor have not been very effective.

In Rajasthan, for instance, farmers are claiming that they suffered huge financial losses. In the past week alone, three of them committed suicide due to financial difficulties, rising debts and crop failure. But the government has not been able to help them much. It is still waiting for the Centre to reply to its request for a relief package of around Rs 10,000 crore from the Centre.

“The Raje government has come to a standstill. Even everyday issues related to water, electricity and roads are not being sorted out. Do you really expect a paralysed government to move quickly on distributing relief to thousands of farmers?” asks Goenka.

Crop failure — either due to unseasonal rain or poor Monsoon, is a normal Indian phenomenon. Every few years, farmers suffer extensive losses and are forced to seek government help. Most of the time, the relief is inadequate. And whatever little manages to reach the beneficiary is either disbursed late by government officials or pocketed by corrupt middlemen. This year, the hope from Modi government was that it would live up to its promise of being fast, efficient and honest. So far, it has proved itself to be a replica of the previous governments.

Adding to the misery of financial losses due to crop failure is the fear of land acquisition. The bill has created the impression that Modi is after the farmland in a bid to help corporates set up businesses. The reality may not be so simple and the land bill’s merits and flaws can always be debated. But the BJP is losing the war of perception in rural India.

According to the Outlook, “From Jhajjhar to Bhiwani, Muzaffarnagar to Mathura, Jats — once ardent Modi fans — are challenging his governments might, feeling betrayed, even believing they are victims of official/political bias. Many had voted for BJP ‘as Hindus’, but their religious identity is being overridden by their occupational one — of being predominantly agricultural.”

Jats were an important part of the BJP’s poll strategy in the 2013 and 2014 elections. Considered traditional supporters of the Congress, they voted for the BJP en masse in Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh, tilting the electoral balance heavily.

“The politics of interests, not identity, is propelling Jats’ agitation, which revolves around three grouses: The harsh land acquisition ordinance introduced on December 31, 2014, the fact that sugarcane farmers have not been paid their arrears since 2013 and sudden losses in wheat, potato and other crops during incessant, untimely rain and hailstorms in March and April,” according to the Outlook.

“Earlier they were not willing to listen to us. Now there is heavy resentment against the BJP among Jats and farmers,” Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Jayant Chaudhary told Outlook.

Sanyam Lodha, former Congress MLA from Rajasthan, says the wheel of politics has started turning. “Modi’s dramatic rise began with the BJP’s victory in Rajasthan (in MP and Chhattisgarh it was in power). Such is the resentment among voters that the BJP will find it difficult to win the next election in Rajasthan,” he says.

Goenka agrees: “Next time I will bet on the BJP getting wiped out in Rajasthan,” he says.

It may be the end of the road for Posco in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: South Korean steel giant Posco has  waited patiently for its 12 million tonne per annum (MTPA) port-based steel plant near Paradip in Odisha to take off for nearly a decade. But with the Centre ruling out any out of turn allocation of iron ore mines to the company and the Odisha government giving the impression of washing its hands of the project, the steel major’s patience appears to be wearing thin.

Nothing proves this exasperation better than the ugly war of words that has broken out between Posco and Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation of Odisha (IDCO), the land acquisition arm of the state government. In a recent letter to IDCO, the Korean company has asked for an item-wise expenditure receipt for the Rs 30.34 crore it has given towards land acquisition.

The company has followed it up with another letter asking for refund of Rs 11.21 crore out of the Rs 13. 52 crore it had paid towards acquisition of 438 acres of private land for the project, which was never acquired due to stiff opposition from the people of Dhinkia village, the epicentre of the movement against Posco. After a meeting with the leaders of the anti-Posco agitation, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had announced that no private land would be acquired for the project. The project map was accordingly redrawn.

AFPAFP

AFP

What invited Posco’s ire was a letter by IDCO asking the company to pay its outstanding dues of Rs 54 crore towards the 1703 acres of land already handed over to it and an additional Rs 19 crore towards net present value (NPV) of de-reserved forest land. The letter hinted that the land may be resumed if the amount is not paid urgently.

As if to prove that IDCO was not acting on its own, Industry Minister Debi Prasad Mishra on Saturday made it clear that Posco has to pay up for the land acquired on its behalf. The wheel appeared to have turned full circle for the state government, which braved the wrath of the people to acquire the land required for the project.

Suddenly faced with the charge of not doing enough to prevent Posco from moving out, the Naveen Patnaik government appeared to have made partial amends for its rather haughty stand on Sunday. Holding out an olive branch to the Korean steel maker, Steel and Mines Minister Prafulla Mallick said the government is willing to consider alternative sources of raw material for the company.

“But before that happens, Posco must make its stand clear on whether it is still keen on the project and whether it is willing to take part in the auction for the Khandadhar mines. It must talk to the government,” Mallick said.

Significantly, IDCO has held back the 1000 acres more that it has acquired for the Posco project. Though it has not said so in as many words, it has left no room for doubt that Posco would not be given possession of this 1000 acres unless it pays up its outstanding dues towards the 1703 acres it has already been handed over. [It may be noted that Posco, which had initially sought 4004 acres, later revised its land requirement downwards to 2700 acres after it was forced to scale down its project from 12 MTPA to 8 MTPA due to stiff opposition to land acquisition.

The Posco-IDCO spat continues even as the Odisha government has sought to convince the people that it is doing everything it can to see the project through and that it is, in fact, the Centre which has played spoilsport by refusing to allocate the iron ore rich Khandadhar mines in Sundargarh district, which had been promised to Posco long back.

Categorically rejecting the Odisha government’s request for preferential allocation of mines to Posco in view of its ‘international ramifications’, Union Steel and Mines minister Narendra Singh Tomar, in a recent letter to the state government, has made it abundantly clear that Posco, like other companies, will have to bid for the Khandadhar mines – or any mines for that matter – under the provisions of the amended MMDR Act.

On a visit to the state on Saturday, Union Mines secretary Anup K Pujari reiterated the minister’s statement saying the new Act leaves no room for any special consideration.

This rejection, more than anything else, has proved to be the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back for Posco. The Korean company is reportedly unwilling to participate in the auction fearing that Indian steel companies – which, for obvious reasons, are wary of the Korean giant – could form a cartel to jack up the auction price, making it unviable for Posco to go ahead with its marquee project, billed as the biggest FDI project in India.

Tomar recently informed Parliament that Posco is in talks with public sector steel behemoth Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) for collaboration in setting up a steel plant in India. Though the minister did not specify the location, it is believed that he was referring to Bokaro in neighbouring Kharkhand where SAIL has excess land.

Industry sources, however, say this is old hat and the ‘talks’ have got stuck on SAIL’s refusal to allow Posco to have 51% share in the proposed joint venture. On its part, Posco is not willing to be a partner in a venture where it does not have controlling stake and has to play second fiddle.

With the assurance of raw material linkage not there anymore, Posco has also withdrawn from the special purpose vehicle (SPV) for the laying of the Haridaspur-Paradip railway line, which would have facilitated transport of iron ore from the mines to its plant. The company has written to the head of the SPV asking for a refund of the Rs 27 crore it had contributed to it.

Posco has recently ties up with Indian steel maker Mesco, which already has captive iron ore mines, to set up a plant based on the Finex technology at Duburi in Jajpur district. But this cannot obviously be a substitute for the mega steel plant it proposed to set up near Paradip.

With the new Land Acquisition Act, acquisition of the amount of land needed for a project of similar dimensions anywhere in the country would be next to impossible for any company, not just Posco. Logically, therefore, Odisha remains the best bet for the Korean company since the difficult part of land acquisition is already over here. But in the absence of raw material linkage, the land acquired is of no use.

Unfortunately for Posco, it cannot go the Vedanta way and buy time for raw material linkage while making do with raw material procured from various sources to run its plant at a much reduced capacity because of the size of its proposed plant. For the same reason, it cannot bank on the state government’s assurance to make iron ore available through state PSU Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) either.

In the event, the project that has for long been touted as the ‘single largest FDI’ looks destined to meet the fate of previous big ticket steel projects like the Tata Steel project in Gopalpur in Ganjam district and Arcelor-Mittal project in Keonjhar district.

Mystery trip over, Gandhi attacks Modi on farm crisis | Reuters

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of failing farmers in a rare speech to parliament on Monday, sharpening an attack on the government after a long vacation that raised questions about the opposition leader’s future.

Looking rested following a mystery two-month break that reportedly included a meditation retreat, Gandhi criticised Modi over a plan to make it easier for industry to buy rural land, at a time when farmers are suffering crop losses and depressed incomes.

Undeterred by the splashy return, the government introduced the land reform to parliament on Monday, showing Modi’s determination to drive through reforms aimed at industrialising India despite the political risks.

“This is a government of big people, of suited and booted people,” said Gandhi, the political heir to India’s most famous family and great-grandson of the country’s first prime minister.

It was his first major speech to parliament in nearly four years.

Gandhi led his Congress party to its worst ever defeat in the election against Modi last year with a pro-poor campaign that misjudged the nation’s aspirational mood.

Two-thirds of voters live in villages, making rural distress a potent political issue. But with four years left in his term and a strong mandate for economic growth, Modi appears willing to push potentially unpopular reforms.

The government passed a slew of reforms to open the economy and rein in subsidies before a March recess in parliament’s budget session, and now wants to cap Modi’s first year with a new national sales tax and amendments to a land law he says has halted industrial development.

Gandhi’s speech came during a rowdy day in parliament, with the government on the offensive to push the land rules and the Congress party leading opposition protests that saw the lower house adjourned twice.

Despite a record of electoral defeats and a part-time approach to politics highlighted by an eight-week absence from India that ended on Friday, Gandhi is expected to take over the presidency of the Congress party from his mother.

Party insiders say there is an internal tussle between the old guard and Gandhi’s younger aides. In a sign of the dynastic nature of the party, the three youngsters at Gandhi’s side in parliament were all second- or third-generation party leaders.

Modi’s government has a majority in the lower house but will struggle to pass its decree in the upper house, where opposition parties dominate. If it fails again, Modi’s next step might be to call a rare joint session of both houses, a senior government source said.

In such a scenario, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and allies would command a majority, but would face renewed criticism that they were strong-arming the democratic process.

Modi’s determination to pass the land law stems from the conviction that existing rules requiring businesses to win consent from 80 percent of landowners before purchase will derail the government’s industrial development agenda.

Industry bodies blame the land law passed in 2013 for delays in the construction of power projects, highways and airports.

Modi was elected on the promise of creating jobs and modernising India’s creaking infrastructure.

(Additional reporting by Nigam Prusty and Rupam Jain Nair; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Rahul signals shift in Congress strategy, to focus more on the poor, farmers

Though spokespersons denied a policy shift, claiming their government in fact was responsible for giving birth to aspirational class, by introducing economic reforms, both Rahul and his mother Congress president Sonia Gandhi in their speeches gave clear indications that the party was returning to occupy centre-to-left political space to reverse its sagging political fortunes.

A politically packed Sunday – starting with PM Modi haranguing BJP MPs on the eve of the resumption of Budget session and change of guard in CPM – witnessed a shift in opposition Congress’ political strategy too. Buoyed by the farmer turnout at the rally in national capital, which also saw re-launching of Rahul Gandhi who returned from his 56-day sabbatical, the party dumped plans to influence “aspirational middle class”, the outcome of its Jaipur conclave in January 2014.”Much before IT and industries, it is the farmers who laid the foundation… Today they are scared. The government should function for the poor,” said Rahul.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Though spokespersons denied a policy shift, claiming their government in fact was responsible for giving birth to aspirational class, by introducing economic reforms, both Rahul and his mother Congress president Sonia Gandhi in their speeches gave clear indications that the party was returning to occupy centre-to-left political space to reverse its sagging political fortunes. The party leaders also attacked Modi government for cutting expenditure on social fronts.Even, while declaring an all-out war on Modi on the issue of land acquisition and describing his government as ‘anti-farmer’, ‘anti-poor’ and ‘pro-industrialist’, both the leaders, however, didn’t specify any future political strategy. Aimed at rejuvenating cadre after a series of defeats, Sonia’s speech did overshadow Rahul, in terms of politics, focus and by striking a chord. Party workers, though happy at the turnout, still were sceptical at Rahul and wanted him to spell future plans. Rahul, on his part, assured farmers that he would hit ground wherever government aims to take over their land.The rally saw moments of discomfiture as well. Organisers had to vacate first few rows, occupied by former Haryana chief minister Bhopinder Singh Hooda’s supporters, who booed Haryana state unit chief and Rahul protégée, Ashok Tanwar. The event was attended by senior Congress leaders including ex-PM Manmohan Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Digvijaya Singh.”I will tell you how Modi ji won the election. He took loans of thousands of crores from big industrialists with which he marketted himself. How will he pay back that loan now? He will do it by giving your land to those top industrialists,” said Rahul, who in contrast to his mother spoke ex-tempore. He was, however, occasionally looking at points he had jotted on a piece of paper. Sonia spoke reading out from a prepared text.”Through the Gujarat model, Modi ji showed that he can snatch the land of farmers quite easily and convinced the industrialists that he can do the same in the whole country. This is Modi’s model – weaken the foundation, then attach a ladder to the building, paint it and show to the world that the building is shining,” Rahul said. The BJP, later took strong exception to his remarks, saying it was an insult to voters, of the country.Sonia accused the Modi government of adding insult to the injury of farmers by bringing in the land ordinance. “Rights of industrialists have been secured, not yours,” she thundered in halting Hindi, “Thats a big hit to your economical stature. The same PM who loudly said sabka saath sabka vikas, has totally abandoned the poor, farmers, labourers,” she added.

Toll firm ‘sold’ government land leased to it at Re 1 per year for Rs 103 crore

The land was leased to the private operator NTBCL at a nominal rent of Re1/year by the respective state governments. Of the 100 acres, 66 acres were in the national capital while the remaining land was in Noida. The agreement with the UP government for 34 acres on the Noida side was inked in October 1998. The net book value of the land at the time was estimated to be a mere Rs 55 lakh.

Representational image.

The private operators of the notorious Noida toll bridge had much more than just toll revenues on their mind while constructing the toll bridge. Documents accessed by dna show that IL&FS promoted Noida Toll Bridge Company Ltd (NTBCL) was left with surplus land of 100 acres in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh after completing the construction of the toll road in 2001. The land was leased to the private operator NTBCL at a nominal rent of Re1/year by the respective state governments. Of the 100 acres, 66 acres were in the national capital while the remaining land was in Noida. The agreement with the UP government for 34 acres on the Noida side was inked in October 1998. The net book value of the land at the time was estimated to be a mere Rs 55 lakh.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> In a bizarre sequence of events, NTBCL decided to revalue the land in 2003. The value of the land turned out to be Rs 135 crore. Within a few months in early 2004, NTBCL floated a subsidiary by the name of DND Flyway. Soon after incorporation the toll operator sold off almost 30 acres of the land to its own subsidiary DND Flyway for Rs 103 crore. DND Flyway was even exempted a stamp duty of Rs 8 crore for this transaction by the Uttar Pradesh administration. In effect, the land which was leased to NTBCL for Re 1/year increased the net worth of the company by Rs 135 crore. What is even more shocking is that despite the windfall in land valuation, the toll operator did not deduct it from the project cost to be recovered from commuters. NTBCL’s recoverable project cost kept escalating. In 2004, when the deal was made between the NTBCL and its own company DND Flyway, the project cost recoverable stood at Rs 695 crore. By 2007, the company further increased its project cost to be recovered from daily commuters to Rs 1,109 crore. In 2014, the amount to be recovered by NTBCL stands at an astounding Rs 3,457 crore with the directors of the company saying that they would not stop collecting toll for atleast the next 70 years. The land sold to DND flyway was situated in the village of Nayabaans on the Noida side of the bridge. Real estate agents, dna spoke to, estimate the value of the 30-acre parcel in possession with DND Flyway worth over Rs 700 crore. The concession agreement throws up other startling facts. Not only was land leased at Re1/year, but the UP government was to deliver the land after “removing all residents, buildings and structural impediments at its own cost and expense.” However, a look at the balance sheets and other documents of DND Flyway show that the company till date has not made any use of the land. “This is a deliberate strategy to wait for land prices to escalate and then make a killing through real estate development,” says Ranjit Saxena, an advocate fighting the case for closure of the Noida toll bridge in the Allahabad High Court. Surprisingly, the concession agreement talks of another ‘Project Site Lease Agreement’ whose details are unknown. There is little clarity as to how NTBCL planned to make use of the surplus land that was vested with it at a rent of Re1/year. Furthermore, the agreement explicitly states that “all development income generated and recovered shall be applied towards the recovery of the total project cost.” One of the directors of NTBCL’s parent company IL&FS, on condition of anonymity, said the UP government has been creating hurdles in development of the surplus land in Noida. After being trailed by dna reporters for two days, NOIDA (New Okhla Industrial Development Authority) chairman Rama Raman was still evasive on the steps being taken to investigate charges of excessive profiteering & fraud against NTBCL. “Behind every toll road is a goon. In a foreign country the operators would have been asked to stop collecting toll after making a profit. We are completely with the dna campaign. It is time for the Noida toll bridge to shut down,” said KC Tyagi, spokesperson of the JD(U). “IL&FS cannot fool the people forever. I will not be responsible if massive protests break out again at the toll bridge. This toll road must go now,” added Mahesh Singh, the BJP MP from Noida. What seems even more peculiar is the manner in which the remaining 66 acres of land with the Delhi government was transferred to the toll operator. In October 1998, the Delhi government signed an agreement with NOIDA to transfer the land to the latter. On the same day NOIDA signed an agreement with NTBCL, transferring the land for Re 1/year to the company. dna’s questions on how the land parcel on the national capital side is being used did not elicit any response from the directors of either IL&FS or NTBCL. Documents accessed by dna do not show any development work that has been carried out on the land. The recoverable project costs claimed by the toll operator, meanwhile, have kept increasing and by 2034 are expected to be more than Rs 85,000 crore. In effect, despite being given a road to collect toll from and land to develop property on, commuters have to keep on paying increasing tolls every year. The toll on India’s national capital with its voracious appetite for untrammeled profits seems to have been built with more just than evil intentions in mind.

Nitin Gadkari accuses Congress of double standards on Land Acquisition Bill

Union Minister for Road, Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari has accused the Congress of adopting double standards on the Land Acquisition Bill.

Nitin Gadkari

File Photo
Union Minister for Road, Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari has accused the Congress of adopting double standards on the Land Acquisition Bill.Gadkari alleged that the Congress did not think about the Social Impact Assessment and Consent clauses while acquiring large tracts of land in Haryana for Robert Vadra. “Then, the Congress did not think of SIA and Consent when Vadra was given land in Haryana? But when it comes to amendments made for farmers, the Congress opposes with an eye on the national vote bank,” Gadkari told the media here.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Gadkari was here to inaugurate a series of infrastructure projects being undertaken under the aegis of the MoRTH worth Rs. 5000 crore in several parts of the state.Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier this month said misconceptions are being spread by opposition parties on the Land Acquisition Bill, and added that this is harming national interest.

Nitin Gadkari rakes up Robert Vadra issue to target Congress over land law

Gadkari questioned why Congress did not bother about Social Impact Assessment when Robert Vadra’s firm bought land in Haryana.
File Photo
dna Research & Archives
Terming the Land Acquisition Ordinance as pro-farmer, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday attacked Congress for opposing the proposed law and sought to know why it was not bothered about Social Impact Assessment (SIA) issue when Robert Vadra’s firm bought land in Haryana.”Congress didn’t bother to talk about SIA when land was given to Robert Vadra (son-in-law of Congress President Sonia Gandhi) in Haryana,” he said.”But now when we acquire land for development projects, Congress remembers SIA. They have double standards,” he added.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Road Transport Minister said the opposition to Land Acquisition Ordinance was politically motivated and claimed it favours farmers. Gadkari rubbished suggestions that farmers would be forced to commit suicide if the amended land law being pushed by the Narendra Modi government comes into force.”No farmer will commit suicide due to land acquisition law. Those who are protesting are not the land losers. The land loser gets four times the price (post acquisition),” Gadkari maintained.The ordinance, which the NDA government could not get converted into a legislation in Rajya Sabha due its lack of numbers and stiff opposition, was re-promulgated on April 3. The fresh executive order incorporates nine amendments that were part of the Bill passed in Lok Sabha last month.SIA has been a key aspect of the land law. As per the amendments, SIA will not be applicable if the land is acquired for five purposes – national security, defence, rural infrastructure (including electrification), industrial corridors and building social infrastructure.

Opposing Land Bill amounts to obstructing growth: Venkaiah Naidu

Vehemently defending the Land Acquisition Bill, government on Monday said that opposing this legislation amounts to obstructing growth which is needed for providing jobs and creating rural infrastructure.

Vehemently defending the Land Acquisition Bill, government on Monday said that opposing this legislation amounts to obstructing growth which is needed for providing jobs and creating rural infrastructure.”Obstructing the land acquisition, fair compensation, and rehabilitation Bill means obstructing the growth of the country. One has to understand this that the country wants growth,” said Parliamentary Affairs and Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said at a CII event.”Rural boys and girls want job opportunities…approval is needed even for irrigation projects. Employment for the affected families is made mandatory which was not earlier there (in the Bill),” he said. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the big challenge is going to be passing the amendments to the land law.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”…the big challenge is also going to be passing the amendments to the land law. I firmly believe, that the 2013 land law is hugely detrimental to rural India and I am particularly reemphasising the point. It is the most unfriendly piece of legislation as far as rural India is concerned,” he said.In fact an incorrect assurance was given in Parliament that irrigation projects would be kept out, he said, adding that there is no land availability for irrigation. Amendments to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 have been approved by the Lok Sabha but could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha as the ruling NDA does not have a majority in the upper house.However, pending the passage of the amendment Bill by Parliament, the Ordinance was re-promulgated to ensure continuity in legislation. Opposition parties are against the Bill in present form and have been opposing it within and outside Parliament.

Modi launches India’s first air quality index, says our lifestyle needs to change

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday launched India’s first ever national air quality index to monitor pollution levels in ten cities in the country, he said that environment protection is a part of Indian culture that has been practised for a long time by our ancestors.

PM Narendra Modi said that lies about the land bill were being spread around. Reuters

PM Narendra Modi said that lies about the land bill were being spread around. Reuters

Speaking at the inauguration of a two-day conference of State Environment and Forest Ministers in New Delhi, Modi said, “We belong to a tradition whether nature is considered to be sacred and has a deep bond with humanity…we have been worshipping trees and plants for a very long time.”

Modi also took a dig at the Opposition for targetting the land acquisition bill and said that the bill had nothing to do with the land belonging to adivasis or people living in jungles. “There are a lot of misconceptions being spread  about the land bill.

“Not a single word in the land bill refers to adivasis’ land or the land of people living in jungles,” Modi said. “Therefore, such land does not come under land bill. Some people are spreading lies and trying to delude the country. This practice of misleading people of the nation must end.”

Talking about India’s contribution to environment protection in the world today, the PM said, “We have the least contribution to carbon emissions in the world.”

“The world has still not found solutions to global warming and carbon emission,” said Modi. “We are not ready to change our lifestyle while addressing problems of global warming and carbon emissions…Until we do that, we cannot solve such problems.”

“The world’s perception is that India is not bothered about environment protection and climate change,” said Modi, adding that this perception could only change if the people in India changed their lifestyle and practised age-old traditions for environment protection.

Referring to such a change in lifestyle, Modi said, “If our urban bodies decide that they will not switch street lights on during a full moon night, we will save a lot of energy.”

Modi also said that recycling and reusing were old practices in India. He said that Indians knew that plants had life long before Jagdish Chandra Bose discovered that plants have life. “Since the time of the Gita and the Mahabharata, we have believed that plants had life,” said the PM.

“We need to go in the direction for the creation of an environment for protection and worship of nature…There should be an environment in our schools that encourages nature conservation,” said PM Modi. “It should be India taking the initiative to save the world from the threat of climate change…Some people think development and environment are opposite. This thought is wrong. Both can happen at the same time,” he added.

Modi also talked about creating pressure in the world for allowing India to harness civil nuclear energy. “If we tell the world we want to go forward in civil nuclear energy, we are denied permission,” he said. “We will put pressure on the world to provide India permission for civil nuclear energy.”

He also talked about the importance of solar and wind energy. “India is a country with great potential when it comes to solar energy and wind energy. We need to harness this potential,” he said.

Stressing on effective waste management, Modi also said, “To create wealth out of waste is a big venture these days, we need to focus on waste management.”

“Waste management can be used to make better fertilisers which will give a better crop yield for our farmers. Better crop yield will mean better health for the people and a reduction in the cost of budget for the health sector,” said the prime minister.

Modi also talked about the importance of cleaning Ganga, saying that it would create better global perception of India. “The people in the towns and cities located on the banks of river Ganga are closely linked with the Clean Ganga campaign…If we stop the pollution of Ganga, we can create a trust with the world that India can protect the environment,” he said.

The Prime Minister also spoke about the rising tiger population in the country. “I came to know that the population of tigers went up by 40 percent in India. This is a matter of great pride for us, especially since two-thirds of the global population of tigers is in India and this global population is on the decline,” he said.

BJP goes bullish on land Bill, to take on Opposition by its horns

Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who addressed the media on Modi’s valedictory address, said the UPA’s land acquisition Bill was anti-farmer as it “prevented rural irrigation, roads, housing and electrification”, while the NDA government’s Bill “corrected” that. The political resolution adopted at the executive, which referred to Modi as “messiah” and “revered”, said the party will work completely in sync with the government on its policy initiatives and schemes.

Giving a thumps up to the political and policy initiatives of the Narendra Modi government, a bullish BJP on Saturday pledged to take on the Opposition by its horns in the war of “perception” on the land acquisition Bill. The party’s two-day national executive also made a resolute attempt to project itself as pro-poor and pro-farmer.There was a consensus that while the government should go ahead with the Bill, efforts should be made to change the perception that it was anti-farmer, an issue which could have serious political ramifications.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who addressed the media on Modi’s valedictory address, said the UPA’s land acquisition Bill was anti-farmer as it “prevented rural irrigation, roads, housing and electrification”, while the NDA government’s Bill “corrected” that. The political resolution adopted at the executive, which referred to Modi as “messiah” and “revered”, said the party will work completely in sync with the government on its policy initiatives and schemes.It also accepted the decision to form a coalition government with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir. While party general secretary Ram Madhav explained the context in which the party went in for an alliance, union minister Nitin Gadkari made a power-point presentation on the land Bill.Jaitley reeled out the instances cited by Modi to underline the steps taken for the welfare of the poor and spoke of the government’s trickle down model. Modi said that in Deendayal Upadhyay’s centenary year ‘garib kaliyan varsh’, the effort will be to keep ‘antyodaya’ (the last man in the queue) in mind and bringing smile to the faces of the poor.
“Modi gave illustrations on how he was trying to take government in that direction… The emphasis was the kind of growth model we are presenting in which economy should grow and percolate down to the poor by way of opportunities and poverty alleviation,” Jailtey said.Modi said even the Swachh Bharat campaign was aimed at addressing the health concerns of the poor.Jaitley said a larger part of the discussion on the land Bill involved rural infrastructure, roads, electrification and housing for poor. “Through industrial corridors, we can provide jobs for poor,” he said.However, he said though the government has brought in nine amendments, it was open to Opposition suggestions.”Any good suggestion we will consider,” he said. With the Congress undertaking a campaign against the Bill, the BJP would have to reach out to other opposition parties in Rajya Sabha, where it is in a minority.He said the focus of the conclave was “active party, active membership and involving party in government’s policy formulation.” He said the states opposing the land Bill had the choice of not implementing it. A document to counter ‘disinformation’ on the Bill was also released at the conclave.

Efforts underway to convince Opposition on land bill, says Venkaiah Naidu

New Delhi: Facing stiff opposition on the Land Acquisition Bill, government on Wednesday said efforts are underway to convince political parties on the measure and expressed hope that a consensus would be evolved as it is willing to accommodate their suggestions.

Venkaiah Naidu said efforts are underway to convice Opposition on the land bill issue. IBNLive

Venkaiah Naidu said efforts are underway to convice Opposition on the land bill issue. IBNLive

“All senior ministers are on the job to convince all parties and we are hopeful of a consensus emerging on the Land Bill,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu told reporters in New Delhi.

He said while government had moved nine official amendments to the bill before it was passed by the Lok Sabha, it is willing to accommodate more suggestions to bring the opposition on board.

Naidu’s remarks came a day after the Union Cabinet recommended to the President re-promulgation of the Land Ordinance as the one in force now will lapse on 5 April.

He said BJP wants its MPs to be more enthused about the Land Bill as it is crucial for the country’s economic growth.

The issue will be part of the political resolution to be adopted in BJP’s National Executive to be held in Bengaluru this week.

Meanwhile, sources in the government said the fresh Ordinance will again have to clear the Lok Sabha hurdle before reaching Rajya Sabha since it will be different from the one in force as it will incorporate the nine amendments passed by Lok Sabha.

The pending measure, titled Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, that was passed in Lok Sabha sought to replace the Ordinance that was promulgated in December.

The Ordinance should have been cleared by Parliament before 5 April if it was to subsist. But the government faced a hurdle in Rajya Sabha, where it could not get the bill to replace it cleared because of lack of adqequate numbers.

The issue has united the opposition parties which have jointly mounted a strong campaign against the measure.

PTI

Nitin Gadkari hits back at Sonia Gandhi on land bill issue, says UPA misleading nation

New Delhi: Union minister Nitin Gadkari has hit back at Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the land bill issue, accusing her of “misleading” the country and alleging that UPA government’s policies had resulted in unemployment and farmer suicides.

Nitin Gadkari slammed Sonia Gandhi over the land bill issue. PTI

Nitin Gadkari slammed Sonia Gandhi over the land bill issue. PTI

Responding to a letter by Sonia Gandhi, Gadkari, who is a key government point person on the controversial bill, said on Monday that not a single acre of land was acquired under the land acquisition law brought out by the UPA for irrigation and other rural and social infrastructure projects and farmers remained dependent on rains all the time.

In her letter to Gadkari, the Congress chief had rejected his offer for a dialogue, saying it was a “mockery” as the BJP regime had unilaterally imposed the land ordinance.

Dubbing the bill as anti-farmer, she had accused the government of “bending over backwards” to favour industrialists.

Replying to criticism over the move to keep various projects out of the purview of social impact assessment, Gadkari said, “The UPA government willingly created a system in which big land acquisition projects were out of the assessment while welfare projects run by state governments were mired in it.”

“Under your land law, government and private firms which are allocated coal blocks can acquire thousands of acres of land with doing social impact assessment but states would have to go through this complex exercise if they need one acre of land for a school or hospital and rural road.

“Will it be proper? The Maharashtra Chief Minister belonging to your party had then sought that such a bill be studied by a group of chief ministers. But UPA did not find it appropriate to evolve a consensus among its own CMs,” Gadkari said in his letter.

The amendments brought out by the Modi government were in line with the suggestions which were made by chief ministers during a consultation exercise on 27 June, 2014, he said.

“In your letter, you have tried to mislead the country over the Electricity Act 2003 as well,” he said.

Gadkari challenged Sonia Gandhi for an open debate over the issue, saying democracy demands debate over welfare measures and people should not shy away from it.

He also rubbished the Congress president’s criticism of the land bill for doing away with the requirement of returning the acquired land to its original owner after five years if the project did not take off in this period and said such a provision will impair irrigation and residential schemes.

“Congress governments in Maharashtra, Haryana and Assam had submitted that such a provision would derail irrigation schemes and housing projects for the poor as they take longer than five years for completion.

“Sonia ji, due to the policies of your government farmers always depended on rains and kept waiting for official relief. We have not done away with social impact assessment but given states the right for it,” Mr Gadkari wrote to Mrs Gandhi, arguing that most land acquisition done by states is for irrigation.

Citing agricultural production in Punjab, he said farmers in other states can benefit only by irrigation schemes for which land is required and accused Mrs Gandhi of speaking “half-truth” on the issue.

Against a national average of 48.3 percent, over 98 percent of cultivated land area is under irrigation in Punjab whose productivity is also twice to the national average, he said.

Attacking the Congress chief, Gadkari said the country remained backward and development came to a standstill during UPA’s 10-year rule. “There was no electricity in villages and water in farms, forcing many farmers to commit suicide.”

Quoting a study of the erstwhile Planning Commission, he alleged that her government spent the money, meant for road, power and irrigation projects, on populist measures to “lure” voters.

“Your government came out with subsidy programmes to get votes of farmers and rural youth. Our government’s law is in the interest of villages, poor, farmers and labourers,” he said, rejecting the charge the land bill was anti-farmer.

PTI

Failure in passing land bill will be harmful for farmers: Venkaiah Naidu

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu on Sunday said that failure in passing the land bill would be harmful for the farmers of the country and the government was trying to take regional parties into confidence on the controversial bill.

File Photo
PTI
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu on Sunday said that failure in passing the land bill would be harmful for the farmers of the country and the government was trying to take regional parties into confidence on the controversial bill.The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015, with nine amendments, was passed in Lok Sabha. Now Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government faces its real test in the upper house where it is in a minority.”If this rehabilitation and fair compensation ordinance and the land bill are not passed then we will be doing harm to farming community,” said Naidu in Chennai.The land acquisition ordinance, which was promulgated in December last, will lapse on April 05 because it could not be converted into a law by Parliament. Since an ordinance cannot be reissued while parliament is in session, the government on Friday prorogued the session of Rajya Sabha so that it could re-issue the controversial land acquisition ordinance.Opposition parties have successfully portrayed proposed changes to a land purchase act, including exemption from getting consent of 80 percent of landowners for some projects, as anti-farmer – a damaging charge in a country that is still mostly rural.NDA government has proposed one employment for the family of the affected person on account of land acquisition, that also will go; are we doing justice to farmers or not? We have to understand . Thirdly the state governments have been given the liberty whether to proceed on the new act or follow the previous act. That being the case where is the problem, we are not able to understand,” added Naidu.On March 17 in a rare show of strength, a united opposition of 14 political parties, led by Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, marched from the parliament to the presidential palace in New Delhi to protest against the land reform bill.

CAG report on Rober Vadra-DLF land deal vindicates me: Ashok Khemka

Ashok Khemka. PTI.Ashok Khemka. PTI.

Ashok Khemka. PTI.

Chandigarh: A senior IAS officer of Haryana Ashok Khemka today said that his action in Vadra-DLF land-license deal has been “vindicated in the CAG report but he continues to suffer the stigma of charge sheet.”

During the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government, the official had ordered the scrapping of the land deal between Skylight Hospitality Pvt Ltd (owned by Robert Vadra) and DLF, terming it as illegal. However, the previous Hooda government gave clean chit to Vadra in the land deal.

“My action in VADRA-DLF land-license deal vindicated in CAG report, but continue to suffer the stigma of chargesheet,” said Khemka in a tweet reacting to the CAG report.

In another tweet he said, “Real culprits sit in judgement over me. My pain and suffering may help to detox and cleanse the body politic.”

In his third tweet Khemka, presently posted as State Transport Commissioner, said “Black-marketing of licenses and permits to cronies is loot of public wealth. Will action be taken against the black-marketers?”

“Undue favours” to builders, including Robert Vadra‘s Skylight Hospitality, by the Haryana Government during the Congress regime has come under attack from the Comptroller and Auditor General.

In its report for the year 2013-14, tabled in the Haryana Assembly yesterday, the official auditor has come down heavily on the Town and Country Planning Department.

“….the department neither at the time of granting in-principle approval nor at the time of formal approval fortransfer of licenses ensured that net profit beyond 15 percent of the total cost accrues to public exchequer. This enabled the developers to earn huge profits merely by selling the land while the government had to forego sizeable amount,” the CAG report said.

The BJP and other Congress rivals had trained their guns on the previous Bhupinder Singh Hooda government accusing it of showing favours to Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, in his land deal with realty giant DLF.

Though the report did not name Vadra, his company, Skylight Hospitality, was named. Skylight Hospitality, the report noted, sold a prime 3.5 acre piece of land in Manesar in Gurgaon district to DLF in 2008 for Rs 58 crore.

PTI

CAG report on Vadra deal accuses Hooda govt of bending rules, acting in haste

Chandigarh: The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on controversial land transactions in Haryana has almost vindicated the position of bureaucrat Ashok Khemka on the Robert Vadra-DLF land deal.

Tabled in the state assembly on Wednesday, it has accused the previous Congress government of showing undue favours to Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

PTIPTI

PTI

The CAG report has said that the “possibility of extending undue benefit to particular applicant (Vadra’s company) cannot be ruled out”.

It has also questioned the ‘distinction’ made by Hooda’s government for Vadra’s company in giving permissions. It had helped Vadra by giving sanction in haste to the permissions required, the report suggested.

Under the deal which had been under scrutiny for the last few years, Vadra’s company, Skylight Hospitality, had allegedly sold a prime 3.5 acre piece of land in Manesar in Gurgaon district to DLF in 2008 for Rs 58 crore when the land had only cost his company around Rs 15 crore, earning a cool profit of around Rs 44 crore. It was sold to DLF after obtaining change of land use (CLU) and other permissions from the Hooda government.

Senior IAS officer and the then Haryana Director, General Consolidation, Ashok Khemka, who was the first one to point out and object to this deal, had also ordered its scrapping. Khemka, who has been proved right now by the CAG, had claimed at that time that the deal was illegal and stood no chance of being allowed.

Khemka had alleged that the Rs 7.5 crore that Vadra used for buying the land in question, which he later sold to DLF, was not his own, as he had just Rs 1 lakh in his account at that time.

Khemka went on to cancel the land mutation of the Vadra-DLF land deal for development of a commercial complex at the venue, a step that saw him subjected to a lot of harassment by the Hooda-led government.

Asked for his reaction after his daring action against Vadra had been vindicated, Ashok Khemka told Firstpost that he had nothing to say as he had only done his official duty and nothing else. “I have no comment to offer now.’’ He, however said that, “there is much more than what the CAG has pointed out.”

However since then he has tweeted, saying that despite being vindicated, he continued to suffer the ‘stigma’ of the chargesheet filed against him:

The land deal controversy had become a national issue before both the general elections in the country in 2014 and also in the Haryana assembly elections.

The then government had fiercely defended the questionable land deal even as Khemka was taken to task. The opposition parties in Haryana had alleged that it was doing everything to help Vadra.

Earlier, Anil Vij, Haryana’s Health minister, had told Firstpost that there were discrepancies in the Vadra-DLF land deal and the former made profit illegally. The revenue he earned should have gone to the Haryana government according to rules. “After the Haryana government examines the CAG report, it will take necessary action in this regard,” he had said.

However, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has been non-committal on initiating an investigation into the deal. “The BJP government’s priority in Haryana is to implement its agenda and not to run a vendetta campaign,” Khattar had said in Chandigarh. “Law will take its own course in the Robert Vadra land deal case,’’ he said.

Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala was not available for comment. He had lashed out earlier at the BJP government for `unnecessarily questioning the land deal’. “Vadra is being hounded as part of political propaganda against the Congress,” he had said then.

Pawan Jain, Haryana Congress spokesman, said there was no wrongdoing in the Vadra case. “The Hooda government had not done anything wrong. We will challenge the CAG report to prove it.”

“This is just the beginning. We are not at all surprised. Many more scams in Haryana will come out in the days to come, especially those related to land deals. Not for nothing was the Congress government known to be a party of property dealers,” Dushyant Chautala, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) MP from Hisar constituency, said.

Land Bill: Modi’s pitch fine, but is he mistaking price of land for its value?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s strong pitch for his government’s Land Bill has failed to impress a large section of the Indian population, including the farmers whom it was intended for. They feel Modi maybe sincere in his intent, but he could be making a mistake by confusing between the value and price of land? Does one job per family and good compensation take care of all the sense of security that land provides to a farmer?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. ReutersPrime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

“The PM is using the official media to spread lies and mislead the farmers. Land is the sole source of livelihood and dignity for the farmers, agricultural workers, share-croppers and other dependants on land. Its value is far beyond the pittance the government is offering in terms of compensation. A government which has miserably failed to provide relief to farmers reeling under crop loss in vast areas, is now making a callous promise that farmers will get a “good” price for land. The PM is indulging in an exercise of lies, deceit and demagogy to ensure smooth takeover of productive land for corporate profiteering and real estate speculation,” said Vijoo Krishnan, joint secretary, All India Kisan Sabha.

He added, “Offering job to one person of a family is like uprooting a family from its main source of livelihood and giving a token job to one person of the family. If the government was sincere, it should have announced that all employable adults will be given mandatory jobs, besides, social security measures and health and education facilities. Wherever land acquisition is indispensable, a portion of the developed land should be given to the dependants on land. The price fixed for such acquisition is itself far below the actual market price and since the avenues for countering the decision for acquisition are being further limited, the farmers would not even get what should be the actual price.”

Unimpressed with Modi’s contention in support of the Land Bill, social activist Anna Hazare accused him of “misleading” farmers on the Land Bill.

Hazare said, “Modi is watching others with coloured glasses and this bill itself is misleading. This bill is not going to help farmers, but the big corporates only. If the Modi government’s intentions are so clear and it wants to help the farmers then why it did not oppose the Bill in 2013 presented by the UPA-II, instead of supporting it,” he said. During the UPA regime, Rajnath Singh from the floor of the Parliament had said that the BJP won’t support the bill, unless social impact assessment was included in it.

The social impact assessment included the rehabilitation, resettlement, livelihood, etc of farmers, once their land was acquired.

“During the UPA-II, it was the BJP that strongly emphasised on having a social impact assessment clause included in the Land Acquisition Bill 2013, besides the 70 percent consent of farmers. It was on this basis that BJP supported the bill. But, now after coming to power, the same BJP is taking farmers on a ride. Moreover, if the government speaks of urgency in development, why it wants to change the previous clause which says that if the land remains unused for five years, it should be given back to the farmer? The NDA government has proposed to abolish the clause in the ordinance. This speaks of the BJP’s double-standard and low political morality,” said Sompal Shastri, noted agricultural expert and former Union minister for Agriculture in the Atal Behari Vajpayee government.

“Whatever, the PM said in ‘Mann Ki Baat’, are his feelings only. It’s not about the farmers but to appease the industries and the corporate world. What about the livelihood and rehabilitation of farmers, who would lose land?” questioned Shastri, former chairman of National Agriculture Commission.

Anupam Singh, leader of the Aam Aadmi Party, Haryana unit, said “The PM mentioned that Land Bill 2013 was drafted in hurry, which is incorrect. He should know that it took three years to draft the said bill and had undergone a parliamentary process. It was backed by the BJP at that time. The parliamentary committee that worked on this Bill was headed by Sushma Swaraj. While, in the radio talk, the PM mentioned Haryana government’s steps to provide compensation, but on the contrary, the Haryana CM has ensured that farmers do not get the right price. All categories of land in the state have been grouped under a single price slab. Can the price of a barren land and a double crop land be the same? Is single price point justifiable for the livelihood of farmers in terms of real value of farm land?” questioned Singh, who is associated with Jai Kisan Abhiyan in Haryana.”

Let there be a national debate on land bill: Venkaiah Naidu

Hyderabad: Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Monday asserted the Land Bill proposed by the NDA government is pro-farmer and will reduce poverty, even as he favoured a national debate on the legislation.

“The proposed Land Bill is equally important to lift the farmers and rural areas to a new level of sharing the fruits of development. Our intention is to see that farmers benefit, their children get employment,” he told reporters here.

Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu. IBNLiveUnion Minister Venkaiah Naidu. IBNLive

Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu. IBNLive

“I appeal to all parties to enable taking forward this legislation. Meanwhile, let there be a national debate–states have the liberty and power to implement the new Bill or the old UPA bill – let them decide. Then where is the problem,” the Union Parliamentary Affairs minister said.

As for options being explored by government apart from re-issuing the land ordinance which will expire soon, he said, “Options and strategies are not revealed. But, you know better than us because you can also do your research.”

Asked if re-issuing the ordinance was an option, he said the government would see the provisions available in Constitution and the precedents set by the previous governments.

“I am not saying anything. I leave it to you. There are provisions available in the Constitution. There are precedents set by previous government.”

When he told Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad on the urgency to pass the bill as the session would be adjourned on March 20 and only meet again on April 20, the latter was quoted as saying by the Minister, “Mr Naidu, why are you in a hurry? You adjourn the House on 20th, issue an ordinance. What is there? You can re-issue ordinance. We have also brought ordinances. Its on record.”

“He (Azad) has already given some ideas. Let’s see. What are precedents set up by previous government earlier,” the Minister said.

On the opposition voiced by anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare, he said one should go through the details and come to a conclusion.

The government issued the ordinance after holding widespread consultations, including calling a meeting of all states and taking note of the letters written by the then Maharashtra Chief Minister (Prithviraj Chavan) and the then Union Minister Anand Sharma to the then Prime Minister opposing the UPA bill, Naidu said.

The government made nine amendments to the proposed bill “without standing on false prestige” during the course of debate in Parliament and Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured yesterday that the government was ready to incorporate any more improvements, he said.

The Union Minister condemned the reported comments of senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh that support of non-Congress parties to the coal and minerals bill was a compromise.

“It is regrettable and condemnable that senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh made highly objectionable comments doubting the wisdom of non-Congress parties who have supported the coal and minerals bill charging them that they have compromised with the government for other reasons instead of joining them in obstructing the progress of the country.

“Digvijay Singh might be speaking out of his own experience. These parties supported bills purely on their merits,” he said.

The bill being proposed by the NDA government offers four times higher compensation to farmers for loss of land, employment to at least one member of family whose land has been acquired and if job could not be offered, at least Rs 2,000 per month (inflation linked increase) will be given to every family for 20 years.

A new house would be provided if a house is lost in the process of land acquisition, each displaced family will be given a subsistence grant of Rs 3,000 per month and at least Rs 25,000 would be given if a cattle-shed or small shop is lost.

No concessions have been given to private companies for setting up private hotels, private schools and private hospitals in the Act.

Private companies will have to get consent of 80 per cent of land owners and also have to get social impact assessment done among others.

Naidu expressed happiness for the passage of insurance bill, along with the coal and mines and mineral bills and others by Parliament.

He said a study has revealed that the productivity in the just-concluded session was 121 per cent, the highest in the last decade.

He complemented MPs and political parties for their collective wisdom for the high productivity of parliament.

The land acquisition bill, GST and black money bills are next items for the second part of the budget session, the Minister added.

PTI

Modi’s mann ki baat on land acquisition is the first attempt to explain reform in 25 years

In a column I wrote on February 27, 2015, I had said that prime minister Narendra Modi should talk to the people of this country directly through his mann ki baat programme on All India Radio. Modi spoke to the people of India directly yesterday on mann ki baat and addressed the contentious issue of land acquisition.

Among other things, he criticized the Congress party which has been protesting against The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014.

Modi said that “those projecting themselves as sympathisers of farmers and undertaking protests,” had been using the Land Acquisition Act 1894, a 120 year-old law for 60-65 years after independence. In the process he exposed the hypocrisy of the Congress party, which has been in power in every decade after independence, and had the opportunity to set things right on the land acquisition front. But it never went around to doing this.

The Land Acquisition Act 1894, had been the law of the land until 2013. This Act gave unparalleled powers to the government to acquire land. A 1985 version of this Act stated: “Whenever it appears to the [appropriate Government] the land in any locality [is needed or] is likely to be needed for any public purpose [or for a company], a notification to that effect shall be published in the Official Gazette [and in two daily newspapers circulating in that locality of which at least one shall be in the regional language], and the Collector shall cause public notice of the substance of such notification to be given at convenient places in the said locality.”
This was not surprising given that the law came into being when the British ruled India. This allowed governments all over India to acquire land from the public. Many governments passed on this land to corporates, and in the process both the government and the corporates made money. The only one who did not make money was the individual whose land was being acquired. Of course, this did not go unnoticed. People saw politicians and corporates making a killing in the process. And the trust that is required for any system to work completely broke down. In 2013, the Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) brought in The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

One of the major provisions of the Act was that private companies acquiring land would require the prior consent of at least eighty percent of the affected families. In case of public-private partnerships(PPP) the prior consent was required from at least seventy percent of the affected families.

The ordinance brought in the Modi government is essentially the same as the 2013 Act, except for a few changes. The ordinance does away with the requirement of prior consent for land being acquired for affordable housing, defence, defence production, rural infrastructure including electrification, industrial corridors etc. There is nothing wrong with this change.

Also, the 2013 Act stipulated that the land acquisition carried out under 13 Acts of Parliament which dealt with land acquired for the purpose of atomic energy, highways, national highways, mining, railways, metro etc., were exempted from the Act. The 2014 ordinance did away with this distinction, which meant that land being acquired under these Acts will also be compensated at the same rate as promised in the 2013 Act. Doing away with this distinction is a step in the right direction.

Prime minister Modi in his address pointed out that maximum land is acquired under these 13 acts. “If we hadn’t approved this amendment, then the farmer would have continued losing land to projects with low compensation,” he said. He also put a rhetorical question to the people of this country: “Tell me if what we did was wrong?…Can someone tell me if this improvement goes against farmers?”

As per the 2013 Act, for rural areas the minimum compensation promised is anywhere between two to four times the market value of land along with the value of the assets on that land. For urban areas the minimum compensation promised is two times the market value of land along with the value of the assets on that land. So, land acquired under the 13 Acts of Parliament will also be compensated at the same rate as the land acquired for other projects.

Modi in his address clarified that the “ordinance does not change the compensation legislated in the 2013 Act one bit.” He also addressed the genuine concern of people that more than the land that is required for a project is typically taken on. He assured them that in the days to come there would be a proper assessment of how much land will be required for a project and this will ensure that excess land is not acquired.

Indian corporates over the years have acquired land through the government and become lazy in the process. Also, many of them started to see themselves as landlords and wanted land just for the heck of it. This can be said from the inefficient use of industrial land in India. If Modi follows what he has said that will be another step in the right direction. It will also do a lot to rebuild the trust required for the process of land acquisition to work efficiently.

Agriculture, forestry and fishing form around 18% of the total economic output of the country. Data from the India Brand Equity Foundation, a trust established by the ministry of commerce and industry, points out that agriculture “employs just a little less than 50 per cent of the country’s workforce”.

If nearly 50% of country’s workforce is engaged in an activity which produces only 18% of its economic output, there is something that is not quite right about the entire scenario. What this clearly tells us is that too many Indians are dependent on agriculture and this number needs to come down. The situation gets even worse once you take into account the fact that most people who work on farms don’t totally depend on income from the farm. Only 17 percent of them survive entirely on money from their farm.

Modi addressed this issue as well by saying: “In every household, the farmer wants only one son to stay in farming. But he wants other children to get out there and work because he knows that in order to run a household in this day and age different endeavours need to be made.” He then went to say that given this scenario what is wrong with the government acquiring land for building an industrial corridor and ensuring that jobs are created in the vicinity of where farmers live.

To conclude, economic reforms in this country have also been carried out through stealth. No government in this country has ever made an effort to explain economic reform to people. This was the first time since the process of economic reform started in 1991, when someone has made an effort to explain it in simple layman terms to the people of this country. In fact, what Modi has started needs to continue. Other leaders of the Bhartiya Janata Party now need to take this forward by talking to the people of this country directly.

(Vivek Kaul is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. He tweets @kaul_vivek)

Land Bill: Don’t be misled by lies, PM Modi tells farmers on Mann Ki Baat

New Delhi: With opposition mounting campaign against the Land Bill, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today reached out to farmers, telling them that “lies” are being spread over the measure for “political reasons” to create confusion among the farming community.

Speaking on the issue over radio in his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme, he insisted there were some “lacunae” in the Land Bill of 2013 “as it was enacted in a hurry” and these are being addressed while protecting the interests of farmers and villages.

Referring to his statement in Parliament, Modi maintained that the government is willing to consider any changes in the Land bill that would be beneficial for the farmers.

He made a veiled attack on Congress, saying “those projecting themselves as sympathisers of farmers and undertaking protests” had been using a 120-year-old law to acquire farm land for over 60-65 years after Independence and were now targeting his government which is “trying to improve upon the Act of 2013”.

During the 30-minute programme, he underlined that the new Land bill being brought by his government has the same compensation provisions as in the 2013 Act and emphatically rejected that the new measure was aimed at benefiting the corporates.

He also said that ‘no consent’ provision in the proposed new law applies to acquisitions by government for government or PPP projects and insisted that the same clause exists in the previous Act.

“I am surprised that all kinds of misinformation is spreading,” he said, focusing on the issue over which his government has come under severe attack and united the opposition parties.

“In the Land Act of 2013 there were certain lacunae… Our attempt is to address these lacunae to ensure that the law is beneficial for villagers, farmers, their future generations and to ensure they get electricity and water,” he said.

“I said in Parliament also that even now if somebody feels that something is still lacking, we are ready to make improvements.

“Our commitment is to ensure benefits for farmers through the Land Acquisition Act..So many lies are being spread..It is my fervent appeal to farmers not to make decisions on the basis of these lies. Don’t be misled,” he said, adding, “You trust me, I will not betray your trust.”

Specifically referring to the consent clause issue, he said misinformation is being spread for “political reasons”.

The new Land bill was passed by Lok Sabha during the just-concluded first half of the Budget session but got stuck in Rajya Sabha.

Modi said the enactment of Land Acquisition law in 2013 during UPA tenure was done in a “hurried” manner and BJP, which was in opposition at that time, had supported it for the sake of farmers.

“If anything is done in a hurry, some lacunae remain. May be the intent was not wrong but lacunae are there which need to be corrected. I am not levelling any allegations against the previous government as to what it wanted or not wanted.

“Our intention is only to see that farmers benefit, their children benefit, villages benefit. So if there are any lacunae in the law, these must be addressed. This is our priority,” the Prime Minister said.

To buttress his point about lacunae in the Act of 2013, he said when the law was implemented, it was realised that “perhaps farmers have been cheated. We have no right to cheat the farmers.”

He said when his government came, there were “voices” which said the law needs to be changed and improved upon. “These voices came from states” he said.

It was also noticed that for a year after being enacted, the law was not implemented, Modi said.

“States like Maharashtra and Haryana, where Congress was in power and who claim to be the sympathisers of farmers, implemented it but gave half the compensation than prescribed in the law,” he said.

PTI

Only benificiaries of land acquisition are big companies: Here’s why

The key question in the land acquisition debate isn’t about “industry” or “farmers.”  It is: who decides which is land is to be acquired? Because, when land acquisition is done badly, it doesn’t just harm displaced communities. It prevents necessary infrastructure, imperils the financial system, and endangers the economy.

Official data in Rajasthan shows that majority of land acquired is lying unused, and the CAG found the same in Orissa. In Orissa, over Rs 75,000 crore was raised by mortgaging such land illegally; in ten years only two percent of projects were ready to start. On SEZs, the CAG found that “land appeared to be the most crucial and attractive component of the scheme.”  Eleven companies were checked; those eleven alone had raised Rs 6300 crore by mortgaging SEZ lands, of which over Rs 2000 crores went to companies in non-operational SEZs. Similarly, most companies that sought captive coal mines — and associated land — never used them, except to boost their own value. In every sector, this story repeats itself.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The government tells us it wants employment and “development”, but those can’t be generated by projects that never come up. Besides, loans to such projects can’t be repaid. Thus India’s public sector banks are drowning in bad loans, with the infrastructure sector being the biggest recipient. Finally, assuming that some proposed activities were actually useful, how will they ever come up when non-performers got the land first?

Such non-starters are not the end of the story. In project after project, independent analysis has found proponents’ claims to be grossly exaggerated. The CAG found that all the SEZs it sampled had failed to meet their employment, investment and export targets, in some cases by over 90 percent. It said “the achievements of SEZs in the country are mostly contributed by a few SEZs in developed states that were set up before the SEZ Act.” An analysis by US-based economists found that the famed POSCO project would destroy three times more livelihoods than it claims it would create, while generating negligible tax revenues. All the figures for benefits from the project were from a “cost benefit analysis” paid for by POSCO, which essentially ignored all the existing jobs in the area. Meanwhile, in 2009, 89 percent of India’s hydroelectricity projects were producing below capacity, and 50percent of these were not even generating half their targets.

The reason all of this happens is that India’s resource allocation process is completely irrational. Decisions are made by bureaucrats on the basis of information given either by project promoters or other bureaucrats. There is no objective review and no one is ever held accountable.

The 2013 Land Acquisition Act made two changes — a social impact assessment by an independent panel, and requiring landowners’ consent in some cases. These would have forced corporates and bureaucrats to at least back their claims with data, and to justify their promises to some of those who would lose everything. None of this would have stopped the abuse, but it was a start.

That start was too much for the NDA government. Under the current ordinance, for practically all projects, the District Collector’s word is gospel. If the Collector says that land must be acquired, it must be acquired.

But still Ministers tell us they want “development.” How do they know that any project will lead to development when they have no way of checking promoters’ claims? How do they know projects will generate net employment when there is no assessment to count the jobs they will destroy? Decisions made in this manner, whether corrupt or not, can never be rational. The only beneficiaries are big companies. Everyone else — displaced communities, banks, the government, those needing infrastructure — will pay the price.

Shankar Gopalakrishnan is a researcher and unionist based in Dehradun. He is currently working on a book on the land question in India.

Will send land acquisition bill to select committee: SP

New Delhi: Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav on Tuesday said the party will send the Land Acquisition Bill to the Select Committee when it will come in the Rajya Sabha.

Mulayam Singh Yadav. PTI

Mulayam Singh Yadav. PTI

“There is a parliamentary procedure to send bills to Standing committee. Whether the cabinet will agree with its recommendations or not that is a different matter,” Yadav said outside Parliament.

However, the Rajya Sabha MP noted that for the first time no bills were being sent to the Standing Committee.

“Because of the majority of the ruling party in the Lok Sabha, this government is not sending any bill to Standing Committee and it is happening for the first time. But we will have to send the (Land Acquisition) Bill to the Select Committee, when it comes to Rajya Sabha for discussion,” SP leader said.

Asked whether government is trying to create fissures in Opposition unity by approaching different parties on the issue, he said, “No political party will go against the interest of the people. We are with people and will remain with the people. There is no question of any other stand on it.”

Whether the government is trying to push the Land Bill to benefit some private players, he said government has already delivered the benefit after taking oath.

The Land Acquisition Bill will replace an ordinance approved by President Pranab Mukherjee in December last year.

PTI

Modi govt doesn’t get it: Land bill is just bad UPA development-nomics as usual

Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be ignoring the writing on the wall when he blames the opposition parties for blocking the Land Ordinance, which seeks to do away with the farmers’ consent for a large number of PPP projects involving building industrial corridors, housing etc.

While inaugurating a 1200 MW power plant in Madhya Pradesh a few days ago, Modi attacked the opposition for coming in the way of progress. “Why are opposition parties against building schools, hospitals and roads”, he asked. The PM was at his rhetorical best, which is par for the course. The only problem is Modi seems isolated in this game because the RSS leadership also has strong opposition to the Land Ordinance. However, Modi cannot publicly attack his own mentors. In fact the RSS is holding a two-day meeting of its top leadership later this week where it will do a detailed analysis of the government’s performance so far. The land ordinance, among other key decisions of the NDA, will be discussed threadbare.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Rajya Sabha.Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Rajya Sabha.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Rajya Sabha.

Modi and his key advisors in the government have not grasped the central point about the Land Ordinance. In his rhetorical flourishes, Modi may link the land ordinance directly with the development of roads, schools, hospitals and housing. Unfortunately, he is appearing less and less convincing. He gets carried away by his own demagoguery and sounds as though roads, electricity, schools and hospitals were a recent invention, as if no real development happened before Modi ascended to power. Taking cue from the PM, the BJP spokespersons too parrot the same lines suggesting that no development happened in the ten years of UPA. The fact is that a lot of unregulated and haphazard land development happened during the UPA regime—such as indiscriminate allocation of land for SEZs which are now pure real estate plays—making businesses very happy at the cost of farmers who realized how cheaply their land was bartered away with the State playing a facilitating role.

The larger truth is precisely on account of the past development paradigm — the farmers have become acutely aware of the rising values of their land and are in an agitation mode because they realize how badly they had got shortchanged by both the state apparatus and businesses acting in tandem.

Modi must realize one plain fact: the farmers today don’t trust the State agency to act justly on their behalf. Even the Gujarat example, where a lot of development is supposed to have happened, does not give confidence. Gujarat has seen widespread farmers’ agitation against unjustified land takeover by government agencies. Not just Gujarat, every other state provides examples of how Chief Ministers have used their discretionary powers to allot land for power projects or private education institutions several times more than what is actually required. A retrospective audit of excess land grab in the guise of “development projects” is bound to produce shocking results.

Given this backdrop, the farmers just don’t trust the State agency as playing an honest arbiter or broker in implementing the new land acquisition ordinance. This is the real issue at stake. The idea of the State acquiring land on behalf of the private sector in big PPP projects of housing and industrial corridors as anathema to the ordinary farmer. Can the political class win their trust overnight? Not likely.

In the name of development and cooperative federalism Modi wants to empower the CMs and give them powers to acquire land without the farmers’ consent. So far neither the Centre nor State governments have shown any sensitivity towards the real long term needs of the farming community. If a social impact assessment(SIA) is done retrospectively for all the big land grabs that have happened in various states over the past 20 years, the results would be instructive. Businesses dealing with land have thrived even as local communities have gone invisible. This is a reality represented by recent history which the NDA government cannot ignore. Modi cannot talk about development in a vaccum. He has to contend with the experiences of the recent past, including that under the NDA regime. Besides, Modi must listen to voices from within the Sangh Parivar. The BJP Chief Minister from Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, recently told a vernacular newspaper that he would seek the consent of farmers before acquiring land and that he would go only for barren land for PPP projects. The land ordinance opens up even multicrop land for acquisition.

So why is a BJP Chief Minister subtly suggesting he would not use the provision of acquisition from farmers without their consent as contained in the land ordinance? Khattar is an old Sangh Parivar hand. Is he answering to the call of the Sangh leadership? An important leader of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch told this writer there is nothing wrong in doing a social impact assessment when even the World Bank insists on such assessment before giving a project loan. Social Impact Assesment is a routine practice and should not be junked simply because it takes time. Sometimes seeking undue hurry and speed in development can also become the cause for the notion of development itself getting discredited. Modi must guard against this possibility.

Author is Executive Editor at Amar Ujala Publications