Congress not to support changes to Land Acquisition Act

The Hindu, January 01, 2015

The Congress on Wednesday made it clear that there was no question of supporting the amendments proposed by the government to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

Pointing out that the BJP had ?unequivocally supported? the enactment of the Act just a year-and-a-half ago when the UPA government steered it through Parliament after three years of consultations, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said the ordinance being promulgated would in various ways bring back the 1894 law which had been found wanting by the entire political class and the Supreme Court.

?What remains resembles the 1894 land acquisition law enacted by the British and would be akin to Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark,? Mr. Singhvi said in a detailed briefing on the party?s position on the ordinance. The ordinance, according to the Congress, relaxes the requirements of consent and social impact assessment survey for five specified areas ? thereby bringing back coercion in land acquisition ? and eases acquisition of multi-crop land.

Asked about the government?s claims that several Congress Chief Ministers too had wanted changes in the Act, Mr. Singhvi countered: ?Let them tell us which person said what. There is a lot of difference between what they say and what is being made out. Tweaking the law in public interest to make it more implementable is one thing, but this ordinance is proposing far more substantive changes and taking us back to 1894.?

As to whether the Congress had a right to criticise the Modi government for promulgating ordinances, Mr. Singhvi said the UPA had promulgated 25 ordinances in five years between 2009 and 2014. ?This government has already promulgated eight ordinances in seven months; one of them just to facilitate the appointment of a person.?

Also, he claimed that the ordinances promulgated by the Congress were on routine matters that required intervention because of expiry of a deadline and the only significant ordinance was the one pertaining to the Food Security Bill. This, he added, was in contrast to the ordinances brought by the Modi government as most of them pertain to vital issues of governance.

?Ordinance is not meant to be the default mode of legislation,? he said.

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