The forecast for the Budget session of Parliament remained stormy as the government on Tuesday reintroduced the contentious land acquisition amendment bill 2015 to replace an ordinance that lawmakers from the Opposition slammed as anti-poor and claimed threatened India's food security.
The land acquisition bill was introduced in Lok Sabha today even as the opposition walked out. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government was well within its rights to take the Ordinance route amidst an uproar in the Rajya Sabha over the Land Acquisition Bill.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked his party MPs to aggressively defend the land acquisition bill saying that it is pro-farmer, sources said.
According to sources, the prime minister said at the parliamentary party meeting of the BJP this morning that the bill will work in favour of farmers and asked MPs to defend it.
"The government is within its rights to take the Ordinance route. Ordinances are bypassing Parliament is not a valid argument," Jaitley said in the ongoing Budget session of Parliament. Congress leader Anand Sharma, however, shot back saying Jaitley expected the Parliament to rubber stamp the Ordinances.
The government is introducing the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 in the Parliament to replace the Land Acquisition Ordinance. The government had last year in December circulated the ordinance which had brought changes in the previous bill passed in 2013 by the UPA regime.
Earlier in the day, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge had termed the Land Acquisition Bill as 'anti-farmer' and added that his party will counter it tooth and nail by taking support from all the opposition parties.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) legislators also staged a protest against the Land Acquisition Bill outside the Parliament. The Rajya Sabha too witnessed a ruckus over the ordinance as opposition members demanded a discussion on the bill, leading to the suspension of the business of the house.
Heated arguments were witnessed between the ruling and opposition benches as the opposition alleged that the government was trying to bypass parliament while the government denied it.
"We have given a notice. The whole country is agitated against the ordinance, there are protests going on in Delhi," Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal said.
Deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha P.J. Kurien urged the members to discuss the matter when the bill on the ordinance comes to the house. "Ordinance has to be replaced by bill. When bill comes you can discuss."
Sharma slammed the government for trying to bypass parliament through an ordinance. "We have given a notice under rule 267. The matter is serious enough to require suspension of business. The law passed by both houses of parliament was changed against the farmers," he said.
"We can't accept that the government will govern through ordinances overriding legislative scrutiny of parliament."
"This bill is listed in Lok Sabha today. Depending if it is passed, every argument can be raised when it comes to this house. But you cannot prevent Lok Sabha from discussing it," Jaitley added.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia is expected to join social activist Anna Hazare and join the latter's protest against the ordinance today. Sisodia said the two Delhi leaders will sit in protest at the Jantar Mantar after attending the legislative assembly proceedings.
Hazare wants the Government to take back the Land Ordinance bill and look out for ways to improve the condition of farmers. The social activist had earlier lashed out at the BJP-led government for removing provisions which provided for taking the farmers' consent before acquiring their land.
Social activists and the Opposition Congress have termed the ordinance amending the land acquisition act as "anti-people". "This is not democracy. Without consultations, they (ministers) are taking big decisions," activist Medha Patkar told reporters.
The organisations which would be part of the protest include National Alliance of People's Movements, All India Union of Forest Working People and the Ekta Parishad.
The Congress joined rank with the protestors to stonewall the ordinance. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Monday said that his party would stage a protest. Veteran politician Mani Shankar Aiyar said the Land Acquisition Ordinance brought by the Centre was not in favour of the farmers.
"This is not only a movement of Anna Hazare but everyone is angry. We [Congress] brought the Act [Land Acquisition] for the betterment of the farmers of this country that too with the support of the BJP," Aiyar told ANI.
In an attempt to build consensus over the bill, President Pranab Mukherjee had earlier said the interest of farmers and land owners has been protected.
"Protecting the interest of the farmers, their right to fair compensation, rehabilitation, resettlement and financial compensation has been refined," Mukherjee told the joint sitting of parliament on the opening day of the budget session.
In December, by an executive ordinance the government made significant changes in the Land Acquisition Act, including removal of a consent clause for acquiring land for purposes of industrial corridors, public-private partnership projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.
(With inputs from agencies)