New Delhi: Government today decided to re-promulgate the controversial land Ordinance, saying it is necessary for maintaining continuity and providing a framework to compensate people whose land is acquired.
Once approved by President Pranab Mukherjee, the Ordinance would have been promulgated for the third time and will be the thirteenth executive order of the Narendra Modi government since it came to power in May last year.
“The Cabinet has approved again the land acquisition Ordinance to maintain continuity. As you are aware, the Bill is before the Joint Committee (of Parliament) and the old Ordinance will lapse on June 3,” Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters after the Cabinet meeting. The government also came out with a statement about the Ordinance.
Prasad said that the re-promulgation was necessary as the amendments to the 2013 Act include 13 central Acts for ensuring compensation to farmers whose land is acquired for certain types of projects.
“To ensure that there is no problem in compensation to farmers, we have approved the recommendation for re-promulgation... it shows our commitment to the farmers,” he said.
The minister said if the Ordinance is not brought again, then, legally-speaking, there will be no framework for the states to compensate farmers.
He also said that the re-promulgation was required “just to obviate the apprehension of any ambiguity or uncertainty”. A Bill based on the earlier Ordinance is pending before a parliamentary panel and Prasad clarified that the fresh Ordinance will be a copy of that and has no new provisions or changes.
The Ordinance was promulgated for the first time in December last year to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
The Ordinance was replaced by a Bill. Despite being passed in Lok Sabha with 10 official amendments, the government has not taken it to Rajya Sabha as it lacks numbers there.
The Ordinance was re-promulgated in March this year and lapses on June 3. In order to re-promulgate the Ordinance, government had prorogued Rajya Sabha during the Budget session.
Once cleared, this will be the second Ordinance to have been brought out three times in the recent past. The SEBI amendment Ordinance was issued thrice under the previous UPA government.
The NDA dispensation has since December twice promulgated the land Ordinance after it faced continuous resistance, especially in Rajya Sabha, where it does not have the numbers. It agreed to refer it to the committee during the recently concluded parliamentary session.
The first meeting yesterday of the joint Committee of Parliament on the contentious land Bill saw a number of Opposition members questioning the rationale of the government behind changing the provisions of the 2013 law.
While the 2013 law required that the consent of 80 per cent of land owners be obtained for private projects and of 70 per cent for PPP projects, the present bill exempts five categories from this provision of the Act—defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects, including public private partnership (PPP) projects, where the government owns the land.
Responding to a question on whether the government could consider bringing the consent clause again, Prasad merely said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already declared he is open to any constructive suggestions on the Bill.
Prasad also recalled that Modi had earlier in his ‘Mann Ki Baat' radio programme made it clear that land will not be acquired for any corporates without the consent of farmers. He said the government has made it clear that, first, barren land will be used and cultivable land will be acquired only if required.
The 2013 Act also required that a social impact assessment be conducted to identify affected families and calculate the social impact of land acquisition. That provision has been done away with.