First GM crop trials, now land acquisition: RSS stalls Modi govt. again

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act was notified in December 2013. The legislation has however not passed muster with the new government that has initiated a complete review of the clauses.

 First GM crop trials, now land acquisition: RSS stalls Modi govt. again

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It has now emerged that the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), the farmers' organisation associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has opposed any dilution of the stringent provisions of the draft law, provisions that the industry lobby has red-flagged with the hope that the Modi government will do away with these.

The BKS, in the news this week for stalling the field trials of 15 genetically modified crops, has threatened to hit the roads with widespread protests if the NDA government moves swiftly to make land acquisition faster and more cost effective for industry.

A report in Business Standard says the BKS on Wednesday asked the union government not to dilute the draft provisions.

Quoting BKS national secretary Mohini Mohan Mishra, the report says the farmers' representative organisation believes that GM crops and land acquisition from farmers for industrial purposes are two key areas of conflict with the government. Reacting to reports that there were suggestions to the government to do away with the 'consent clause' for PPP projects, Mishra reportedly said if such a move is indeed effected, then the BKS would "have no option but to hit the streets". The consent clause pertains to the mandatory obtaining the consent of at least 70 percent of landowners in a project area for PPP projects and of 80 percent of landowners for a private project. The proposed dilution involves doing away with the consent clause altogether for PPP projects and reducing it from 80 percent to 50 percent for private projects.

Any move to dilute the consent clause promises to be a contentious one. Industry bodies have demanded that the percentage of landowners whose consent is required be reduced to a flat 50 percent or 60 percent. In addition, some have demanded that those who do not acquiesce should not be allowed to derail the project and a specific time frame be put in place to ensure that they are forced to fall in line.

With land acquisition having become the single largest factor slowing down industrial projects, the proposed law has seen several state governments opposing the measure to compensate farmers at market rates and to obtain the permission or consent of the majority of affected landowners before initiating the acquisition procedure. Some states have insisted that land acquisition should be a state subject entirely while others have said the "appropriate government authority" in land acquisition matters should be the state government.

Rural development minister Nitin Gadkari organised a conference of revenue ministers of all state governments on June 27 regarding the government's proposal to tweak the proposed Act in order to speed up key projects.

Land isn't  the only area of contention between the Modi government and its RSS allies looming in the horizon. This week, just when PM Narendra Modi pressed for greater use of research to boost the agriculture sector, two RSS-linked outfits met Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and claimed the clearance given by the biotech regulator for field trials of genetically-modified crops be put on hold. The government has said no decision has been taken as yet.

As reported by Firstpost, this was the first instance of the RSS and its affiliates interfering in this government's economic policy.

As for land acquisition, it has made for some unlikely political partners with the right-wing BKS is joining the left's opposition to any dilution in the Act. Already, the Anti-globalization Action Committee (AAC) has announced that it will launch a mass agitation on August 7 to protest the central government's move to amend it. "The government is eager to acquire land and devastate farmers. We are going to oppose any move that aims to grab farmers' land," one activist was quoted as saying. The Committee comprises of activists who have protested various measures for liberalisation of the economy and the energy sector.

While the Left's opposition was to be anticipated, the NDA government may find it complicated to ease the norms with an RSS affiliate now joining the chorus.  The rising and open assertion of RSS clout in economic issues is also unexpected given all the talk during Modi's campaign that the saffron wing had agreed to stay out of economic affairs, and would remain focused on cultural issues. That 'agreement' either has fallen apart, or likely never existed.

Updated Date: Aug 01, 2014 13:48:49 IST



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