New Delhi: The Centre appears to be having a rethink on the Land Acquisition Ordinance to accommodate the concerns of farmers, claimed members of a delegation which called on senior ministers to discuss the issue. The delegation of farmer leaders from various organisations met Home Minister Rajnath Singh at his residence and expressed their concerns about the changes made in the Land Acquisiiton law by the Ordinance. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rural Development Minister Birender Singh were also present in the meeting.
The meeting comes against the backdrop of protests against the Ordinance by famers' groups, including those affiliated to RSS, and opposition parties as the government remained firm to go ahead with a bill in the budget session to seek parliamentary nod for the contentious ordinance. While the ministers refrained from speaking to the media, farmer leaders Yudhvir Singh of Bhartiya Kisan Union, Krishan Bir Chaudhary of Bhartiya Krishak Samaj and Punit Singh Thind of Rashtriya Kisan Sangathan told reporters that they are confident that the BJP government will listen to their grievances and make suitable changes in the law.
“We (farmer groups) were assured by ministers that the government will take into account our concerns. We have told them that the Ordinance was brought in haste and interests of farmers were ignored. Ministers heard us patiently. “From our talks today, we are confident that our voice will be heard. The ministers said the voice of farmers should have been heard. We have got positive signals,” BKU General Secretary Yudhvir Singh said.
Chaudhary said another meeting of farmers' bodies have been called on Monday where they will formalise their demands and present them to the government.
“It is not a matter of political parties. We cannot compromise on our interests. The Home Minister himself hails from a farmer's family,”he said.
Farmer leaders said their main concerns include doing away with the consent clause and social impact survey in the land acquisition process.
In December last, the government had promulgated the ordinance making significant changes in the Land Act including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas—industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.
Sources in the government earlier in the day indicated that it is unlikely to make any change in the controversial land ordinance while bringing a bill to replace it with an Act of parliament during the budget session, despite widespread protests by opposition parties and farmers' groups. About 5,000 farmers from across the country have begun a march from Palwal in Haryana and will reach Jantar Mantar in the national capital in the next four days to hold a protest. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, who had earlier pushed for the land Act in 2013, will also address a dharna at Jantar Mantar on February 25. Congress leader and former Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh too will address a farmers' meet in Chauroli village of Gautambudh Nagar in UP on Sunday.
Noted social activist Anna Hazare, along with members of several farmers' organisations, is scheduled to hold a two-day protest against the ordinance at Jantar Mantar. Aam Aadmi Party has also expressed willingness to join Hazare's protest beginning Monday if the social activist wants it to do so.