The first meeting of the joint committee of Parliament, constituted to iron out sharp differences between the government and the opposition over the controversial land acquisition bill, has agreed that discussions within the panel will be confined to the ambit of the bill, one of the members of the panel said on Friday.
The committee will meet every Monday and Tuesday starting 8 June to ensure a consensus is arrived at on the bill by the monsoon session of Parliament, which is expected to start around 20 July, the member said, requesting anonymity.
“Members raised questions about (land acquisition for) industrial corridors, the impact on farm labour families and clauses getting amended. The government said it will reply to all the queries by 5 June," the lawmaker said.
Government officials explained the amendments while opposition MPs, including those from the Congress, Biju Janata Dal, Trinamool Congress and the Left, raised questions over the reasons for diluting the consent clause for acquiring land and deleting another provision that calls for a social impact assessment.
The parliamentary committee—with 20 Lok Sabha MPs and 10 Rajya Sabha MPs—was constituted on 13 May to look into the clauses of the 2015 land acquisition bill given major differences between the government and the opposition.
Opposition parties have been questioning the need for amending the 2013 law that makes it mandatory to secure the consent of 80% of farmers for private acquisitions and 70% for public-private partnerships. The new bill also does away with a clause that calls for a social-impact study involving public hearings. The government introduced the amended bill saying that the 2013 law had made land acquisition impossible and was holding up economic and industrial projects.
The ruling National Democratic Alliance has a commanding majority in the 543-member Lok Sabha with 334 seats, but is in a minority in the 245-seat Rajya Sabha, where it has just 57 members.
According to the MP cited earlier, “certain amendments sought by members will also be included in the discussion". The opposition had been seeking an introduction of the consent clause among other changes.
The government had placed advertisements in newspapers seeking comments and opinions of the public on the 2015 bill. “After the comments are received (on 5 June) they will be collated and circulated among members," the MP said.
During Friday’s meeting, Vandana Kumari Jena, secretary, department of land resources in the rural development ministry, “made a powerpoint presentation explaining the necessity of the ordinance and the amendments effected in the Lok Sabha", the member said, referring to the ordinance issued on 29 December and reissued on 3 April.
According to the 2013 land acquisition Act, land acquired under 13 provisions of the law, including defence purposes, would not require consent of farmers but they would have to be compensated as per the provisions of the 2013 Act. This means four times the price of the land in rural areas and twice the price of the land in urban areas. According to the government, bringing in the ordinance was necessary to meet this requirement.
PTI contributed to this story.