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Government is open to suggestions on land bill

Under pressure from various quarters, outside and within, the government showed signs of flexibility on the contentious clauses of the land acquisition ordinance. Though the bill replacing the ordinance is slated for introduction in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, a meeting of the BJP's parliamentary board held at home minister Rajnath Singh's residence, discussed the issue threadbare. Prime minister Narendra Modi was not present at the meeting. "The government is open to constructive suggestions on the land bill," union minister Ananth Kumar told reporters after the meeting.

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Government is open to suggestions on land bill
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Under pressure from various quarters, outside and within, the government showed signs of flexibility on the contentious clauses of the land acquisition ordinance. Though the bill replacing the ordinance is slated for introduction in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, a meeting of the BJP's parliamentary board held at home minister Rajnath Singh's residence, discussed the issue threadbare. Prime minister Narendra Modi was not present at the meeting. "The government is open to constructive suggestions on the land bill," union minister Ananth Kumar told reporters after the meeting.

Just ahead of the deliberations, Singh had a 45-minute meeting with leaders of Ekta Parishad, under whose banner the farmers' agitation is being held in the Capital. Within minutes after the meeting, Singh told the Ekta Parishad leaders that he had spoken to prime minister Narendra Modi and that the government was agreeable to its demand to reconstitute the Land Reforms Council. Sources said the government would convene a meeting of the Council which could look into the various concerns relating to land acquisition bill.

The other four demands made by the farmers' delegation, including Ramesh Sharma and Aneesh Thillenkeri, were withdrawal of the proposed Land Acquisition bill, right to shelter and proper implementation of forest bill. "It was a positive meeting..... If there is no positive response by February 25 we will decide on the further course of our agitation," Thillenkery said. The Ekta Parishad leaders were all set to begin their march from Sarita Vihar in the capital at 9.30 pm and head for Jantar Mantar where farmers had gathered.

The meeting of BJP leaders, the second in the past three days, comes on a day when social activist Anna Hazare addressed a gathering of farmers in the Capital and accused the government of land grab and betraying farmers. The earlier meeting was also held at the residence of the home minister, who was agriculture minister in the Vajpayee regime.

Meanwhile, the Opposition is all set to make the most of the protests against the NDA's Ordinance. The Congress has given a notice for suspension of question hour in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday to discuss the issue. Introduction of the land acquisition bill figures in Tuesday's list of business for Lok Sabha.

Though the RS-affiliated farmers organisation Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKS) and its economic wing Swadeshi Jagran Manch did not join the farmers agitation, their views are in sync with the protestors who have dubbed the land acquisition ordinance as "anti-farmer".

The Sangh affiliates are opposed to diluting the consent clause, which made farmers' nod mandatory, removing the social impact assessment and allowing fertile land to be acquired.

"The government should consider all these provisions. We have suggested making the administrative machinery more efficient so that there is social impact and no delay in land acquisition," said Ashwani Mahajan of SJM.
The land acquisition bill passed by the Congress-led UPA mandated that developers get consent of up to 80 per cent of people whose land is acquired for private projects and 70 per cent for PPP projects. It also made ia social impact assessment mandatory on aquisition of land over 40.46 ha.

In his Presidential address, Pranab Mukherjee said " My Government attaches paramount importance to safeguard the interest of farmers and families affected by land acquisition. While taking utmost care to protect the interest of farmers, including their compensation entitlements, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act has been suitably refined to minimise certain procedural difficulties in acquisition of land inevitably required for critical public projects of infrastructure and for creation of basic amenities like rural housing, schools and hospitals, particularly in remote areas."

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