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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 112

Amid public protests, the Modi government introduces Land Acquisition Bill crippling farmer rights

By Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal

Veteran social activist Anna Hazare launched on February 23 his protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi against the ordinance on Land Acquisition Bill, even as the budget session of Indian Parliament began with President Pranab Mukherjee's address to members of both the houses of Parliament. The budget session contains 44 items of financial, legislative and non-legislative business, including Land Acquisition Bill which the government is eager to pass with the support from Congress party.

Anna Hazare launched a two-day agitation against the Land Acquisition Bill tabled in parliament by the NDA government. The government is bringing a new bill to replace the land ordinance amid stiff opposition from non-NDA parties in Parliament and outside. The Land Acquisition Act, 2013 stipulates mandatory consent of at least 70 per cent of land owners for acquiring land for Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects and 80 per cent for acquiring land for private companies.

Now, ignoring the farmer protests and Hazare agitation against the Bill, the Modi government on 24 February introduced the land acquisition amendment bill in the Lok Sabha amid uproar by the opposition. The Bill is opposed by farmers in India, many political parties, including Congress and Aam Aadmi p Party. Already the BJP government issued the land acquisition ordinance after the first session of the parliament without waiting for house to reassemble on Feb 25.

On December 29 last year, the new Narendra Modi government had recommended promulgation of an ordinance making significant changes in the Land Acquisition Act including removal of consent clause for acquiring land for five areas of industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.

Hazare, who led an anti-corruption movement against the previous UPA government, and eventually caused the falloff a mighty UPA government later in 2014 has now launched an agitation on 23 February against the measure at Jantar Mantar, terming it as "undemocratic" and demanding its withdrawal. 77-year-old Hazare has been highly critical of the Modi government for making certain changes in the Land Acquisition Act through an ordinance.

Terming the Narendra Modi-led government's Land Acquisition Bill as "ant-farmer" Anna Hazare vowed to fight it.

The move is bound to spell trouble for the present government which is keen on pushing the ordinance. "BJP went for an ordinance on land acquisition which is not in favour of democracy," Anna said.

Attacking the land ordinance, Hazare said the BJP had promised "acche din" (good days) to the people during the elections but good days had come only to corporates. "This is a land grab. Britishers used to do it. Today's government is worse than the British regime. Even Britishers did not met out so much of injustice to farmers," he said."Before the elections, the people were promised 'acche din' (good days), they trusted the BJP and voted for them. People stand betrayed.

The social activist also today hinted at a bigger agitation at the Ramlila ground if the Narendra Modi government did not heed to his demands on the issue. Hazare said the two-day protest will be followed by a three to four month long march (padyatra) across the country to make people aware of the "anti-farmer" provisions made by the Centre in the ordinance. "If the government doesn't take the ordinance back, then the people will also continue with their agitation. The activists will make aware the farmers of the amendments. There is a chance that farmers from across the country will gather at the Ramlila Maidan in the next three-four months," he said.

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said it is extremely unfortunate that the BJP-led government issued the land acquisition ordinance without consulting anybody, and added this shows that the Centre is trying to please the corporates. "They have already issued the ordinance without consulting anybody and we stand that the earlier action should be implemented. It is unfortunate that the government immediately, after the session is over, they issued the ordinance," Kharge told the media. It means that they are with the corporates. They are with the companies just to please them, to get more investment in the name of this land acquisition act. Kharge said the land acquisition ordinance is not in the interest of the farmers. "It is not good what they have issued. So, we will take that issue when it comes up in the Parliament," he added. The Congress leader further said that his party would very soon decide on extending support to veteran social activist Anna Hazare, who will sit on a protest at the Jantar Mantar here against the ordinance on Land Acquisition Bill.

It seems the BJP was in talk with Congress to coordinate the parliamentary actions but the land bill has split their cooperative effort.

Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who was a key part of earlier version of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement, joined social activist Anna Hazare, who has launched a two-day agitation against the Land Acquisition Bill tabled in parliament by the NDA government. Addressing a crowd of protestors led by Anna Hazare, Kejriwal said he will not allow the central government to forcibly take land away from anyone in the national capital under the amended land acquisition law.

Kejriwal said the BJP Government acts like a property dealer for big corporate honchos. The Land Acquisition ordinance is anti-farmers and anti-poor, we strongly condemn it. "We will use all our force to ensure that land is not taken away forcibly from anyone in Delhi. If this Land Acquisition ordinance is passed, “Kejriwal said, while addressing fellow protestors at the Jantar Mantar "The matter of property and land in Delhi comes under the Centre, but we will ensure that nobody's land is acquired by forceful means," he added. Kejriwal also had words of praise for Hazare, who was his mentor during the India Against Corruption movement before the two fell out over Kejriwal's decision to launch the Aam Aadmi Party.

Many farmers from across the nation have demand withdrawal of amendments to the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. A group of farmers who began marching from Haryana's Palwal village joined the venue where Anna Hazare has begun agitation in New Delhi to demand withdrawal of amendments to the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

The Modi government is already on the back foot over the issue. It has been indicated that some of the controversial clauses could be removed from the bill. And, unlike the Janlokpal movement that was resisted by every political party, the opposition is united against the controversial law. So, Anna is likely to get support even from politicians.

Land is indeed an emotive issue for farmers. The land bill was passed about a year and a half ago and it was accepted by all parties and the BJP members joined in the unanimous acceptance of this bill. Now the BJP wants changes which would be seen by the entire country as an anti-farmer act.

Clearly, the land bill affects the rights of farmers in the country. Experts feel the Modi government is likely to face the wrath of people if it goes ahead with land bill being viewed as a huge step to help the corporate lords who were promoted even by the previous regime.

- Asian Tribune -

Amid public protests, the Modi government introduces Land Acquisition Bill crippling farmer rights
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