Opposition leaders in panel seek more clarity on land bill

In what may put the government in a tight spot, opposition party leaders in the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill sought clarity on definition of categories like ‘affordable housing’ and ‘national security’ which have been exempted from requirements of consent and Social Impact Assessment (SIA)in the bill brought in by the government.

The committee has been set up to look into the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015.

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At the second meeting of the panel, opposition party members asked the Rural Development Ministry to explain and define what projects related to ‘national security’ and ‘affordable housing’ mean since ambiguity in sectors exempted from the consent and SIA clauses could lead to misuse of provisions.

They said the state governments should also be asked for their views on the definition of these categories. On the insistence of opposition members, the government agreed to extend the final date of receiving views and suggestions from various public bodies, organizations, associations, individuals and other stakeholders from June 8 to June 14.

Sources say the Congress was seeking to defer the meeting till all feedback was in, but the committee decided to go ahead with the meeting considering that nearly 300 suggestions have already been received. Meanwhile, committee chairman S S Ahluwalia (BJP) told the members that he has sought the permission of Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to write to chief secretaries seeking state governments’ views on the bill. Some members also wanted to know the difference between the terms ‘private company’ and ‘private entity’, and why the latter had replaced the former in the ordinance and subsequently in the bill. Parties like CPM placed on record their objection to the fact that the government re-promulgated the ordinance even as the committee was examining the issue. The party felt that if the government was anyway pressing ahead with the changes, the committee’s report would be of little value.

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