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President says land act 'refined'; Hazare, Congress oppose ordinance
Monday February 23, 2015 10:08 PM, IANS

President Pranab Mukherjee Monday said the land acquisition act had been "refined" to minimise some procedural difficulties in getting land for critical projects but the Congress and some parties conveyed their firm opposition to the measure and activist Anna Hazare launched a protest.

Pranab Mukherjee
[President Pranab Mukherjee receiving the National Salute from the President's Body Guard (PBG), at Forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan before leaving for Central Hall of Parliament to delivering his address to both the Houses of Parliament, in New Delhi on February 23, 2015.]

The president said in his address to the two houses of parliament at the start of budget session that the National Democratic Alliance government attaches paramount importance to safeguarding interests of farmers and families affected by land acquisition.

The Narendra Modi government had brought the ordinance on land acquisition in December last year but the move has met stiff opposition on the issue from Congress and some other parties.

The opening day of the session saw some political parties and activists conveying their firm opposition to the changes brought in the act that was passed by the previous United Progressive Alliance government.

The land ordinance was among six ordinances whose copies were tabled by the government Monday in the Lok Sabha. Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu told reporters outside parliament that every ordinance will be discussed on the floor of the house while asserting the land ordinance was not anti-farmer.

Referring to the ordinance in his speech, the president said that the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act has been "suitably refined".

This has been done to minimise certain procedural difficulties in acquisition of land required for some critical infrastructure projects and for creation of basic amenities like rural housing, schools and hospitals, particularly in remote areas, he said, adding utmost care has been taken to protect the interest of farmers, including their compensation entitlements.

Hazare, who led an anti-corruption movement against the previous UPA government, Monday launched an agitation against the ordinance at Jantar Mantar here, terming the measure as "undemocratic" and demanding its withdrawal.

He said that political parties can join his agitation but not share the stage with him.

Activist Medha Patkar termed the ordinance as "anti-people" and said they would begin a massive agitation Tuesday which will be joined by National Alliance of People's Movements, All India Union of Forest Working People and the Ekta Parishad.

"We will launch an agitation in the entire country. We do not want any discussions or clarification, but a complete repeal of the ordinance," she said, adding everyone, including parties, were invited for the agitation.

The ordinance removes consent clause for acquiring land for five categories - defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects including Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects where the central government owns the land.

The existing act had required consent of 80 percent of land owners for private projects and of 70 percent of land owners for PPP projects.

The 2013 law also provided that unused land had to be returned five years after acquisition but the ordinance states that the period after which unutilised land will need to be returned will be five years, or any period specified at the time of setting up the project, whichever is later.

While the act excluded the acquisition of land for private hospitals and private educational institutions from its purview, the ordinance removes this restriction.

The act was applicable for the acquisition of land for private companies but the ordinance changes this to acquisition for "private entities".

Opposition parties, led by the Congress, Monday slammed the government over the ordinance.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi termed the ordinance as anti-people and anti-farmer.

"We will agitate. Government must realize that the essence of democracy is to take everybody along," he said.

Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav said the government talks about development for all "but they are working only for some industrialists".

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