New Delhi: The contentious Land Bill might have smoothly sailed through the Lok Sabha due to the NDA's brute majority, but the government seems headed for trouble in the Rajya Sabha with the opposition determined to stall its passage.
A majority of opposition parties, including the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Left parties, have already made it clear that the bill should go to a select committee. The bill, meant to replace an ordinance amending the 2013 land acquisition act, was passed by the Lok Sabha after nine amendments amid a walkout by the Congress and other opposition parties.
But, with its higher numbers in the Rajya Sabha, the opposition has been giving the government a difficult time.
"A select committee will be the best platform to discuss the bill on which there are so many differences of opinion. The way the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha was an example of government bulldozing its way through," Congress member from Rajya Sabha Pramod Tiwari said.
"As of now, the opposition feels the bill must go to a select committee," he added.
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Echoing this, Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal said that his party felt a select committee was best suited to deal with the bill.
"Since they did not send it to a standing committee, a select committee will be the platform where all views can be taken into account," Agarwal said.
CPI MP D Raja said: "Despite the amendments, our opposition to the bill continues and we are waiting for it to be sent to a select committee."
NDA ally Shiv Sena, which abstained from voting on the bill in the Lok Sabha, has decided that all three of its MPs will also abstain in the Upper House.
Sources said BJP leaders are trying to convince Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray that the bill, with the nine amendments passed in the lower house, allays their apprehensions.
"As of now, the decision is if there is voting, our members will abstain," a Shiv Sena MP said.
Though the business advisory committee of the upper house has not listed the bill for the coming week, opposition members said they were well prepared if it was brought.
"There were bills that the government brought even though they were not brought up in the BAC meeting last week. So we need to be prepared if at all the land bill is brought," a Congress leader, who did not want to be named, said.
Government sources, however, said getting the general and railway budgets and the mines and coal bills passed was their top priority and the land bill is likely to be taken up in the second half of the session that begins on April 20.
The government, which faced a major embarrassment in the upper house when an amendment to the president's address to a joint session of parliament was approved, was again seen to be on a back foot last week when its two crucial bills - Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015, and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015 - were sent to a select panel.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2015, seeks to replace an ordinance promulgated last December which had amended certain provisions of the 2013 act passed during the UPA rule.
The key points which were removed from the earlier law related to the consent clause and the social impact assessment study.
The consent clause provided for 70-80 percent of those dependent on the land to agree to its acquisition. The social impact assessment clause entailed carrying out a study to examine the environmental impact and ensure rehabilitation of displaced people.
The government agreed to nine amendments to the bill to get it passed in the Lok Sabha. These included removing social infrastructure as an exempted category and ensuring that the bare minimum of land required for a project is acquired.
Compulsory employment for at least one member of the affected family of a farm labourer has also been added as well as a clause that the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation Authority should hold hearings in the district where the acquisition takes place.