New Delhi: Prime Minister Modi said on his periodical Radio Address, Mann Ki Baat on Sunday, that he wont reissue the controversial Land ordinance. This is a reversal of the stated position of his ruling party the BJP and Prime Minister himself on amendments his government had proposed to the Land Acquisition Bill 2013 framed by the UPA Government, that he said were designed to make it easier for the state to acquire land for infrastructure and industry. The PM seemed worried about alienating rural voters and giving a continuing handle to the opposition to beat it with.
It was in 2013, that the UPA Government, via a broad consensus brought in comprehensive land acquisition and resettlement Act that among other things, statutorily ensured that the consent of 80% of landowners was to be obtained when the acquisition was for private enterprises and 70% in the case of public-private partnerships, besides raising the compensation levels. However, the Modi government, soon after taking power at the Centre, sought to exploit its popular mandate to improve the economy by exempting certain kinds of projects, such as rural infrastructure and industrial corridors, from these provisions. In February, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley warned that failure to do so would “add to the poverty of India.” However, they could not get the amendments through the Rajya Sabha, where they were in a minority and also faced a lot of negative publicity due to a continuous and united onslaught by the opposition. A parliamentary committee was set up to examine for the nth time and received numerous representations, many of them critical of the moves.
While the decision to drop the ordinance, may enthuse voters in Bihar in his favor, the move is bound to affect the economy and particular infrastructure and manufacturing companies, who will look to have easier access to land. Business executives have long complained that difficulty in acquiring land has stymied development in India.
In a radio address on Sunday, Mr. Modi blamed his political opponents for “spreading misinformation” about the land-law changes. He said that his proposals would aid rural development and create jobs but that he didn’t want to give anyone “more opportunities to scare farmers.”
“Every voice is important to me, but the farmers’ voice has special importance,” Mr. Modi said. “Now, there is no reason for delusions. If someone tries to frighten you, there is no need to be scared.”
The opposition was quick to claim victory and what better platform to proclaim it than the election platform of Bihar. Nitish Kumar, the incumbent Chief Minister and the one seeking re-election in Bihar, quickly said protests had forced the prime minister to give up and “bow before the will of the people.”