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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Lok Sabha clears land bill, govt braces for battle in RS

Shiv Sena Refuses To Vote With Govt
Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the land acquisition bill after a marathon debate, with the government managing to keep its allies together though it failed to rein in Shiv Sena.

The government now braces for a tough battle in Rajya Sabha where it lacks majority , as evident in the near-unprecedented event of its humiliation by the opposition which forced amendments to the motion of thanks on the President's address.

For the ruling coalition, the good news is that it mana ged support from Akali Dal which had criticized the law and insisted that the "consent clause" be restored, as also LJP. While Sena stuck to its guns on the bill, it stopped short of voting against it and only abstained from voting. Im portantly, Biju Janata Dal, which was scathing in its comments and had termed the restoration of "consent clause" and "social impact assessment" as non-negotiable, staged a walkout instead of voting against the bill. However, what would be of concern to the government is that the opposition stayed united. Trinamool Congress and SP voted against the bill. In what could worry the government, the opposition stayed united against the land bill which was passed by the LS on Tuesday . If this line-up stays in the Upper House, the Centre faces the prospect of either the bill being sent to a parliamentary panel for vetting--standing committee or select committee--or its rejection. Only in the case of the latter would the government be able to call a joint sitting of Parliament to push it through, and the opposition is learned to be preparing a resolution seeking its referral to the select panel.

Brought to replace the ordinance promulgated in December to amend UPA 's law, the bill was criticized by the opposition as reverting to the 1894 law which vested authorities with inviolable power to takeover land.

The government argued that the bill was in the interest of farmers and that UPA 's law had made land acquisition for growth activities impossible. Rural development minister Birender Singh referred to the nine amendments to blunt the projection of the bill as pro-corporate and anti-farmer. Not restoring "consent" in any form, the changes to the bill limit industrial corridors to 1km on both sides of highways and railway lines and provide for compulsory job to one member of every affected family of farm labourers and grievance redressal at the district level besides prescribing that states determine that land acquisition for a project is bare minimum. The dropping of exemption to "social infrastructure" projects was dictated by the argument that private individuals could misuse it to open colleges and hospitals.

The opposition moved 52 amendments which were either negated or not pressed by the members. Later, Congress, SP , TMC, Left and others walked out to let the bill be passed by a voice vote.Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was absent during the debate.

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