New Delhi: Dispelling fears that the land acquisition bill was “anti-farmer”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that his government was only removing the “shortcomings” in the existing legislation so that “our farmers don’t suffer”. “The Land Acquisition Act, 2013, was passed in a hurry. We too supported the government then but soon realised that it was not in the interest of the farmers and decided to remove its shortcomings,” Modi said addressing farmers in his monthly radio address ‘Mann Ki Baat’.
“This (present) bill is aimed at the welfare of farmers and villages,” Modi said, adding that rumours against it were meant to keep the farmers poor and backward. “The shortcomings from the act were to be removed as we don’t want our farmers to suffer,” he said. The prime minister said the 2013 act had kept out of its purview 13 laws including those related to railways, highways and mines. These, he said, accounted for most of the land acquisition. “Was it not a mistake? And if we have corrected it, is it anti-farmer?” Modi said his government had to bring in an ordinance so that farmers get the right compensation for the land acquired.
When the 2013 act was enacted, many MPs from the previous United Progressive Alliance government opposed it, saying it was anti-farmer and would only help bureaucrats and officers. “What we are doing is removing all those shortcomings,” Modi said, expressing anguish over what he said were rumours that his government was bringing an “anti-farmer law”. “Brothers and sisters, I cannot even think of harming you,” he said. “The compensation set by the earlier act will remain the same… nothing has been changed.”
The prime minister assured the farmers that the highlights of the old legislation had been preserved in the new bill including providing job to a young member of the family whose land has been taken away. He said his government had made it mandatory that the district authorities specify who would get the job and where the job would be. “I want to assure you through this new law, no extra land would be acquired… First a survey will be done and than the land will be taken according to needs.” Modi said the ‘Social Impact Assessment’ that the existing legislation demands before land acquisition had proved to be a “complicated process” and would harm the interest of the farmers.
Modi also clarified that it was wrong to think that land acquired in the villages would be used for private businesses. He said that rumours of a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) on lands were not true. “Suppose a road with RS.100 crore is to be built under PPP. Will that road be taken away by the investor? The ownership of that road will remain with the government,” Modi said, asking farmers not to be misled.