New Delhi: The union cabinet on Saturday gave its approval to the re-promulgation of the land acquisition ordinance, triggering strong criticism from opposition parties including the Congress whose leader Rahul Gandhi accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being "in an amazing hurry to grab land from the poor farmers at any cost".
The move was also criticised by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
The cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its approval to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015. This will be the third time it will be promulgated.
The ordinance was first promulgated in December last year to amend the act passed during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2013. An official release said that changes in the 2013 Act "will facilitate farmers to get better compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement benefits" in lieu of land compulsorily acquired by the government.
Modi in an interview to The Tribune published on Saturday said that no decision taken by his government concerning the land bill was "anti-farmer". He said chief ministers insisted on a change in the 2013 Act and he thought of addressing their anxieties.
Asked by the newspaper if he was confident of the bill's passage, Modi said it was not a question of life and death for him and it was not on the agenda of his party and the government. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha with official amendments in March but was not taken up in the Rajya Sabha where the government lacks a majority.
The land ordinance was again promulgated in April.
With the Congress and several other opposition parties firmly opposed to the bill brought by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, it was referred to the joint committee of parliament.
The recommendation for re-promulgation of the ordinance will be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee.
Gandhi hit out at the prime minister over the decision.
"Modi ji in an amazing hurry to grab land from poor farmers at any cost. A 3rd attempt at pushing the anti farmer Land Ordinance!"
"Congress Party will continue to fight for the rights of the kisan and mazdoor against this #suitbootkisarkar," he said in a series of tweets.
Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said the government decision for re-promulgating the ordinance was an "insult" to parliament, "which had refused to pass the anti-farmer bill", and "a gross injustice" with farmers of the country.
"On the one hand, the BJP-led government forms a joint committee to have a re-look at the bill, on the other hand it plays a cruel trick," he said, demanding the decision be immediately taken back.
In Bihar, which will face assembly elections soon, Nitish Kumar said the Modi government was "trying to impose" the land bill on protesting farmers and it will prove costly.
Speaking to reporters in Patna, he alleged that the prime minister was concerned about the interest of corporates, despite the bill being opposed by people and different political parties, except the BJP and its allies.