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Panel is now expected to submit its report on 5 August, leaving little time for NDA to push forward the legislation

The problems for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in the ongoing session of Parliament don’t seem to be ending soon, with the joint parliamentary committee, discussing the controversial land acquisition bill, likely to ask for a further extension from the Rajya Sabha.

The committee has already asked for two extensions, and another extension will lead to further delay in submission of the report on a key reform legislation that the central government is keen to push through to boost economic growth.

The committee is likely to give its report on 5 August, which will give the government just six working days to take up the land acquisition bill for discussion in both houses of the Parliament before the session ends on 13 August.

“It was decided in the meeting to ask for further extension of two days. The report was supposed to be submitted on 3 August but now it is likely to be submitted on 5 August. The top bureaucrats of law and justice ministry and rural development ministry were present at the meeting. They have decided to start the clause-by-clause discussion from 29 July and then prepare the report,” a person aware of the development said on condition of anonymity.

The committee was initially supposed to give its report on 21 July—the first working day of the monsoon session. Even before it submits its report, there are signs of a division in the 30-member panel.
Members of the Congress, the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) are all against the bill. There are more problems for the government as Shiv Sena and Republican Party of India (Athawale), both constituents of the NDA led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are against the changes in the bill. Ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) also wants the government to hold more discussions with farmers before making any move to amend the existing law.
“The reasons for the delay in compiling and submitting the report appear political to me,” said N.C Saxena, former secretary with the rural development ministry. “The report could cause more upsets and disruptions in Parliament than we are seeing at the moment,” he said, pointing to the divisions over the bill among different parties.
The government is facing problems in both houses of the Parliament due to repeated adjournments.
The Lok Sabha on Monday saw repeated adjournments for the sixth consecutive day. The opposition parties, led by the Congress and the Left parties, have demanded that external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan resign. The opposition wants Swaraj and Raje to resign for allegedly helping former IPL chief Lalit Modi and Chouhan to quit over the Vyapam scam.

The central government introduced the new land acquisition bill in Parliament earlier this year to replace a 2013 law that makes it compulsory for people acquiring farmland for non-agricultural purposes to secure the consent of 70% of affected landowners for public-private partnership projects and 80% of landowners for private projects.

It also makes a social impact assessment mandatory.

Businesses and industries complain that the two provisions have made land acquisition difficult. The 2015 amendment bill, removing the two provisions, has been passed by the Lok Sabha where the BJP and its allies are in a majority. However, it is stuck in the Rajya Sabha where opposition parties outnumber the ruling coalition.

The 2015 bill removes the social impact assessment and the consent clauses for land acquired for the purposes of defence, rural infrastructure, electrification, affordable housing, industrial corridors and social infrastructure.

Earlier in July, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley had said one of the options that the central government could look at was allowing states to draft their own land acquisition laws that the central government would then approve.

HT Mint, New Delhi,28th July 2015

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