India: BJP to drop Modi government‘s amendments to controversial land law!

India: BJP to drop Modi government‘s amendments to controversial land law!

-Dr. Abdul Ruff


Aggressive and assertive politics of BJP, that was effectively made ineffective by the rise of AAP (Aam Aadmi party) in Delhi assembly poll early this year, seems to have met with a new setback in Indian parliament.

And , yes, the BJP’s strongest leader and Indian PM Narendra Modi’s position in the party seems to be weakened by the latest decision of BJP high command to roll back its proposed amendments to land law bill.

In a climb-down, BJP has agreed to drop all controversial amendments brought by the Narendra Modi Government in December last year through an ordinance and bring back the key provisions of UPA’s land law including the ones on consent clause and social impact assessment and.

All the 11 BJP members in the Joint Committee of Parliament on land bill on Monday moved amendments seeking to bring back social impact assessment and consent clause. With BJP retracting from its previous position, there is likelihood that the panel headed by BJP MP Ahluwalia will come out with a consenus report by August 7. A Congress member of the committee said after the meeting expressing total agreement with the amendments moved by the ruling BJP that “It’s as good as our own Act of 2013”.

Congress, BJD and Trinamool Congress parties opposed the bill and demanded for its withdrawal. Last month, the West Bengal Assembly had unanimously passed a private resolution demanding withdrawal of the “draconian” Land ordinance promulgated by the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre. Trinamool Congress members Derek ‘O Brien and Kalyan Banerjee walked out of the meeting stating that the amendments were circulated this morning and they had little time to study.

While the Trinamool Congress wants a total withdrawal of the amendments brought by the government, BJD among other things favors making the land losers stakeholders when land is acquired for profitable ventures. The party wanted that land owners should be given share in profit if the land is acquired for setting up industry and other commercial ventures.

In the amendments, the BJD has pitched for bringing back the consent and SIA provisions into the bill. A senior Congress leader speaking on the condition of anonymity said the party will move its amendments. “We are hopeful that when parties cast their vote on separate clauses of the bill, they will vote with us as there is a near unanimity among opposition parties that the bill should go,” the leader said.

Congress has already written to the panel that the compensation in the law which is four times of market value in urban area and between two to four times in rural areas should be made uniform four times in all areas, a demand which the government may find difficult to accept.

Out of the total 15 amendments in the NDA bill, nine were substantial in nature that have been opposed by Congress and a number of Opposition parties. Out of these nine six including the provisions dealing with consent clause, social impact assessment, replacing the term private company with private entity were discussed today and a consensus has emerged on them, Congress members claimed. Six of the amendments were discussed today on which there was a consenus.

Land acquisition in India refers to the process by which the union or a state government in India acquires private land for the purpose of industrialization, development of infrastructural facilities or urbanization of the private land, and provides compensation to the affected land owners and their rehabilitation and resettlement.

Land acquisition in India is governed by the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 and which came into force from 1 January 2014.Till 2013, land acquisition in India was governed by Land Acquisition Act of 1894. On 31 December 2014, the President of India promulgated an ordinance with an official mandate to “meet the twin objectives of farmer welfare; along with expeditiously meeting the strategic and developmental needs of the country”. An amendment bill was then introduced in Parliament to endorse the Ordinance. Lok Sabha passed the bill but the same is still lying for passage by the Rajya Sabha. On 30 May 2015, President of India promulgated the amendment ordinance for third time.  Union Government of India has also made and notified the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Social Impact Assessment and Consent) Rules, 2014 under the Act to regulate the procedure. The land acquisition in Jammu and Kashmir is governed by the Jammu Kashmir Land Acquisition Act, 1934

As per the Act, the union or state governments can acquire lands for its own use, hold and control, including for public sector undertakings and for “public purpose”, and shall include the following purposes: for strategic purposes relating to naval, military, air force, and armed forces of the Union, including central paramilitary forces or any work vital to national security or defence of India or State police, safety of the people; for infrastructure projects as defined under the Act; project for project affected families; project for housing for such income groups, as may be specified from time to time by the appropriate Government; project for planned development or the improvement of village sites or any site in the urban areas or provision of land for residential purposes for the weaker sections in rural and urban areas; project for residential purposes to the poor or landless or to persons residing in areas affected by natural calamities, or to persons displaced or affected by reason of the implementation of any scheme undertaken by the Government, any local authority or a corporation owned or controlled by the State. The land can be acquired for private bodies for certain purposes: for public private partnership projects, where the ownership of the land continues to vest with the Government, for public purpose as defined in the Act; for private companies for public purpose.

The major land acquisition and conflicts happen in the densely populated areas of the countryside. The power to take property from the individual rooted in the idea of eminent domain. The doctrine of eminent domain states empowers the sovereign to acquire private land for a public use, provided the public nature of the usage can be demonstrated beyond doubt.

The Constitution of India originally provided the right to property (which includes land) under Articles 19 and 31. The Forty-Fourth Amendment of 1978 deleted the right to property from the list of fundamental rights with an introduction of a new provision. The amendment ensured that the right to property‟ is no more a fundamental right but rather a constitutional/legal right/as a statutory right and in the event of breach, the remedy available to an aggrieved person is through the High Court under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution and not the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution. State must pay compensation at the market value for such land, building or structure acquired (Inserted by Constitution, Seventeenth Amendment Act, 1964). Justice O Chinnappa ruled that the fundamental right to property has been abolished because of its incompatibility with the goals of “justice” social, economic and political and “equality of status and of opportunity” and with the establishment of “a socialist democratic republic, as contemplated by the Constitution. (7 July 1983)

The eight risks that are very much direct and basic in nature are (i) landlessness, (ii) joblessness, (iii) marginalization, (iv) loss of access to common property resources, (v) increased morbidity and mortality, (vi) food insecurity, (vii) homelessness and (viii) social disarticulation.  Recently one more risk ‘loss of education’ has been added as another impoverishment risk in situations of displacement.

Though BJP has full majority in the parliament’s lower house, Lok Sabha, it does not have number in the upper house Rajya Sabha, while the opposition parties having majority there have refused to support the land law amendment bill. BJP tried all its tricks to being some members of opposition on board and pass the bill. But the Modi government did not succeed.

Hence BJP’s only option is for the reverse gear!

The opposition’s demand for the resignation or removal of BJP minister Sushma Swaraj, however,  continues to ransack the normal parliamentary proceedings.

Congress party can claim its first victory against ruling BJP and it would have serious political ramifications.


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