Land acquisition not for private firms: Gadkari

Clarifies that if any land is given to any big business, consent clause and SIA must apply

New Delhi : Senior minister and former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari is once again in the news as he is the architect of the Land Acquisition Bill, which has become a nightmare for the Modi govt. In a free-wheeling interview with FPJ, Gadkari tries to re-assure the country that not an inch of land acquired under the new law would be given for private enterprise.

“No land acquired for public purpose would be given to builders, developers, big business, Adanis or Ambanis. And if any land is given to them, I will ensure that both the consent clause and the social impact assessment (SIA) conditions are duly applied”, he says in a bid to reassure farmers. This is the first time that anyone from the Modi government has said this in so many words.

The Centre is worried that despite the PM himself reiterating it several times, the opposition charge that fertile land acquired for ‘public good’ would eventually go into the hands of real estate developers and big business has created a negative atmosphere.

Gadkari has also come out with a book to explain the finer points of the bill and argue why it is ‘pro-farmer’.

He was equally forthcoming on the allegations of corruption against him in the CAG report on Purti. “This is nothing but a political conspiracy to defame me. They have done this to me earlier when I was BJP president. The Income tax department was asked to investigate on Purti and finally had to close down the investigation because they could find nothing. When asked who he meant by ‘them’, he declined to name anyone. But candidly said he was being targeted because he was one of the best ‘performers’ in this government.

“Remember people only throw stones at trees laden with fruits, not the barren ones”, he quips in a clear hint that this could be an ‘inside job’.

He further explained that Purti was the only group out of 29 companies which repaid its loan to IREDA at a substantial interest via the one time settlement plan. “Why has the CAG named me in its report? I want to ask them is it a crime to take a loan from a government agency”, he demanded.

Coming to Maharashtra politics, Gadkari denied any political connotations of NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s recent meeting with PM Modi in Delhi. “It is unfortunate that in north India meeting between political rivals is often interpreted as indication of realignment. That is not the case in Maharashtra. We have a healthy tradition of rivals meeting as friends on issues concerning common people. Pawar met the PM to discuss issues of sugarcane farmers and the Delhi media should stop reading anything more in it”, he clarified.

Smita Mishra

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