New Delhi: Buoyed by poor support from farmers' bodies and NGOs to the changes in NDA government's land bill, Congress will pitch for adoption of a draft report on the issue by a Parliamentary panel that reflects the 'majority' view favouring inclusion of provisions like the consent clause and social impact assessment.
The understanding in Congress is that if the panel goes by the general view expressed in over 500 representations and around three dozen appearances before it, a majority of the provisions of the 2013 land bill will have to be retained.
As around 90 percent organisations have batted for retaining the key provisions of 2013 land law brought by the UPA, the party is building pressure on the Joint Committee of Parliament headed by BJP member SS Ahluwalia to take into account the dominating voices before the panel whose draft report should also reflect this.
Sources said Congress member Digvijay Singh noted in the panel meeting sometime back," the consensus that is coming (from the groups appearing before the panel) that these amendments are anti-farmer and anti-farming."
He said whenever the committee's draft report is prepared, "we should be talking in a consensus manner rather than in a contradictory manner."
Claiming that 90 percent of the representations before the committee have one view and not even ten percent have said the amendments brought by the NDA government in the land bill are good, Singh said if the Congress' views were not reflected in the draft it will register its "dissent".
He also said the government should not take a "my way or highway" approach on this issue, reminding that the 2013 bill was passed with the consent of all political parties.
Another Congress member and former Food Minister K V Thomas said leaving aside political considerations and political angle, a particular procedure has to be followed "if we have to look at the spirit of discussions".
Barring the industry bodies FICCI and ASSOCHAM, most others, including some NDA allies and RSS affiliated organisations, have red-flagged the NDAs's land bill, voicing serious reservations on many of its provisions, mainly those which did away with consent clause and social impact assessment.
The 30-member Joint Committee has 11 BJP MPs. They need five more to clear the bill by a majority.
Since the Joint Committee of Parliament is different from a department-related standing committee or an investigative Joint Parliamentary Committee, it will present a bill in Parliament based on the amendments moved by members as well as the government.
Once the amendments have been moved, those would be discussed on a clause-by-clause basis. If there is unanimity, the bill will be adopted. Otherwise, there could also be a vote on the amendments.
Secretaries of various ministries of the government will be attending the panel meeting on Monday as it has already completed the hearing of different farmer bodies and NGOs that appeared before it.
Highly placed sources in the government said among a number of suggestions before it one is about taking consent of owners of the majority portion of land.
Many a time, land acquisition gets delayed due to multiple owners of a land parcel. Under this suggestion, if one or more persons own a majority of a land parcel and the rest is owned by a large number of others, it will be easier for the government to take the consent of a few farmers, who own the majority portion.
With the panel grappling with the contentious legislation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in the last week of May that the land acquisition bill is "not a matter of life or death" for him.
There have been conciliatory voices from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as well as Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh on the issue, indicating that the government could be preparing to reach a middle ground with the Opposition on the issue.
"If any suggestion comes in relation to any clause, we are ready to consider it in farmers' interest.... There is no such rigidity on our part that we are not willing to accept if there is anything good," Singh said recently when asked about the demands to restore consent clause and Social Impact Assessment.
After a meeting with representatives of some farmers' bodies Jaitley had said there was "very little" difference between the approach of the government and the farmers' organisations on the land bill issue. Key developments on the land bill is expected next week, the sources say.
While the Committee is likely to go through the amendments on a clause-by-clause basis on July 16 and 17, the draft bill is likely to be placed for consideration and adoption on July 21.