Home / Politics / Policy /  Land acquisition bill: Parliament panel to miss deadline for report

New Delhi: Hurdles in the form of delays and political deadlocks have made the chances of smooth passage of the land acquisition bill dismal.

The 30-member joint committee of Parliament that is discussing the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill is likely to miss the monsoon session deadline for submission of report as not a single meeting has taken place in the last two weeks, according to those in the know of the development.

A bigger worry for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is the opposition to the bill from within the coalition. While BJP leaders and chief ministers are in favour of the bill, it is being opposed Shiromani Akali Dal leader and Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, the Shiv Sena and the Republican Party of India (Athawale), or RPI(A). The three parties together have seven members in the Rajya Sabha.

Both the Shiv Sena and the RPI(A) have threatened the government that they will vote against the bill. Badal also cautioned that the bill has created an impression that government was anti-farmer and so efforts must be made to win over farmers’ support before the bill is considered in Parliament.

Meanwhile, a fresh petition has been filed by various farmers’ forums in the Supreme Court on Thursday questioning the validity of the repromulgation of the land acquisition ordinance on 30 May.

“The land acquisition bill is a long way away from passage. It is a difficult bill. It will take a lot more time for passage than our earlier assessment," said a senior NDA leader.

The parliamentary committee was to submit its report on 21 July, the first day of the monsoon session. But the panel head S.S Ahluwalia of the BJP on Thursday sought a two-week extension till 3 August, citing delays in the completion of the report.

Secretaries from the department of legal affairs, rural development, commerce and railways were among those from 15 ministries who were expected to share their views before the panel on Thursday. But they did not turn up.

“This is the second meeting when senior officials of the government were not ready with the replies of the queries sent to them. In the last meeting also the government was not ready with replies and the meeting was cancelled. This time again, it has been cancelled," said the senior leader quoted above.

“Mockery or meeting? Last time the committee on land bill didn’t function because MPs turned up, govt officials did not. Repeated today (sic)," tweeted Trinamool Congress member of Parliament (MP) Derek O’Brien, one of 20 Lok Sabha MPs who are on the panel. Ten Rajya Sabha MPs are also on the committee that was formed at the insistence of the opposition parties during the budget session.

Interestingly, while secretaries and other senior officials could not attend, the government on Thursday was busy preparing the for forthcoming three-week-long monsoon session. “There was meeting called by parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu to review and prioritize legislative agenda for the monsoon session of Parliament. The meeting was attended by ministers and secretaries of 30 ministries and departments. The discussion was over 65 legislative proposals," said a senior minister in the NDA government.

In the review meeting, there was a discussion on the crucial land acquisition bill. “We have agreed to all the demands of the opposition. They had asked for a joint committee, government agreed for it. We hope that the opposition parties will allow the Parliament to function," said a second Union minister in the meeting.

With most opposition parties, including the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the Janata Parivar, opposing the bill, the NDA government is finding it tough to build a consensus on the bill. On Wednesday, the NDA government agreed to look at a proposal to allow state governments to introduce their own land laws if the government was unable to forge a consensus on amending the 2013 law. The demand was put forth by some states that they be allowed to formulate their own land laws at the NITI Aayog meeting on Wednesday.

Many senior leaders have objected to the such new plans. “The joint committee is doing its work and to make statements like this is not right. The chairman is now authorized to seek the extension of the committee by one more week and the report cannot be submitted at least till 3 August. All the nine Congress-ruled states have written a letter to the committee opposing the amendments to the bill," said a person aware of developments who did want to be named.

Apurva Vishwanath contributed to this story.

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