Prime Minister Narendra Modi today spoke about the Land Acquisition Bill in his weekly 'Mann Ki Baat' radio address, and said the law was for the benefit of farmers, despite removal of the consent clause.
"My farmer brothers, our first intention is that we use government land, then barren land and only then cultivable land," he said.
The removal of the consent clause — which said agreement of seventy percent of landowners was required to acquire land for projects in partnership with private companies — has become controversial. Modi said this step was taken only for exceptional cases, including when disputes arise between villages. "We have only said that in such cases there is no need for consent," Modi said.
He asked farmers not to be believe reports which said that the consent clause has been waived for good. "I appeal to all my farmer brothers to not listen to such lies," he said.
Modi said that the Land Bill will lead to projects that villagers and farmers need, and that it does not seek to benefit corporations. "All the rumours which are being spread against the law are part of the conspiracy to keep farmers poor," he said, adding that the law would bring better roads and more jobs for people in rural areas, and ease their deprivation.
Modi said farmers should write to him if they feel unjustly treated, and that he was open to making changes in the law if required. "I have said in Parliament, that if someone still feels some changes are required, we are willing to take up suggestions."
The bill has been cleared by the Lok Sabha, where the ruling NDA has a majority, but is unlikely to get through the Rajya Sabha where the government is in a minority and facing an united opposition who seem determined to stop its passage. Congress President Sonia Gandhi had recently led a protest march to Rashtrapati Bhavan with former prime minister Manmohan Singh and leaders of other parties.
The government has not renewed the Land Bill Ordinance, which means it will lapse in April. Modi would be hoping to get more members on his government's side in the Rajya Sabha in the next session of parliament.