New Delhi: In a clear signal that the controversial ordinance on the land law will be repromulgated, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday gave a spirited justification of his move to amend the land acquisition bill in his monthly radio address, Mann Ki Baat.

The ordinance will lapse on 5 April. Since Parliament is on a month’s recess till 20 April, the government will not be able to move the lawmakers. If indeed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) does proceed with repromulgation of the ordinance, it will reiterate the resolve of the government to press ahead with reforms even if they are politically uncomfortable.

The Prime Minister has reason to feel buoyed, especially after his government managed to, after a tough fight, get Parliament’s nod at the end of the first half of the budget session for three key reform initiatives, including increasing the foreign investment ceiling in insurance to 49%.

In his radio address, Modi targeted his political critics by accusing the opposition of misleading the debate and dubbed them anti-development.

“There is a conspiracy to not allow development of farmers and stop development of the country. I am surprised at the kind of myths being spread by people. I appeal to farmers not to believe these myths, it is only for political gains. The government will always work for the benefit of the farmers, We believe in the motto of Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan," said Modi.

At the same time, the Prime Minister struck a conciliatory note, maintaining that his government was open to incorporating suggestions from political rivals.

Modi said that land will be taken only after the agreement of farmers and that the government had not made any changes to compensation provisions. “There is a myth being spread that land will be taken without the permission of farmers, it is not correct. The law is the same for corporates and industrialists. The law is the same as it was in 2013 and no changes have been made," he added.

The proposed amendments to the existing land law have raised considerable controversy both inside and outside Parliament, with the opposition accusing the NDA of cosying up to business. It has led to a deadlock and prevented the passage of other legislation, especially in the Rajya Sabha, where the NDA is in minority with just 57 members of Parliament (MPs).

Arguing that the previous law brought under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was hurried through, Modi emphasized that state governments wanted certain changes in it. According to the Prime Minister, a rethink was required as the government wanted land to build schools, hospitals, irrigation facilities and roads in villages.

“State government have suggested changes in the law. Should I believe the state governments or not? I want to trust the state governments. The social impact assessment hearing was removed because it created bureaucratic and other hurdles because it takes two-four years for the process to get completed. How can I allow farmers to get trapped in it? The government will first use government land, wasteland and if there is further need for land only then land from farmers will be taken for development purposes," Modi said.

In an attempt to address growing fears that the new land law would lead to economic disenfranchisement of farmers, the Prime Minister said that even farmers and their kin had a right to avail of the benefits of economic growth. And all that the government was doing was taking jobs to people.

“Land owners will get jobs, landless workers will get jobs. Prior announcements will be made about the jobs. Do we want our children to migrate to cities and live in the slums of Delhi and Mumbai? If industries are set up, children of farmers will get jobs," Modi added.

Political analysts say that Modi is using his programme Mann Ki Baat to engage the people directly, especially on crucial issues like the land acquisition bill.

“The way bills have been passed in Parliament, it talks about the approach of the government. The government is not only talking to political parties but Modi is talking to people also. He is trying to bridge the gap between the government and people. The BJP is not known to be strong in rural areas, so by talking to farmers directly, Modi is trying to create a constituency for himself," said A.K. Verma, a Kanpur-based political analyst.

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