Hazare warns Modi of dangers in implementing ‘anti-farmer’ land bill

For the second time in less than a month, veteran anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasising the ‘anti-farmer’ comportment of the ordinance of the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 and urgently impressing upon Mr. Modi the necessity of rescinding the new ordinance on the legislation.

In an expansive and often cautionary letter, the septuagenarian activist pointed out that the erstwhile Congress-led UPA government, which had amended the colonial Land Acquisition Act of 1894 and ushered in the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 in its stead, had at least made sure that the reformulated provision contained some provisions protecting the interests of farmers.

However, Mr. Modi’s BJP government transformed the ordinance into an “anti-democratic entity” by amending key farmer safeguards in the 2013 Act and blindly playing to the corporate gallery.

It was no wonder that legions of farmers’ organisations and NGOs had taken to the streets in protest of this ordinance, observed the letter.

Replete with blow-by-blow censure to each amended clause, the letter questions government’s intentions for the key amendments. It casts aspersions on the government’s reasons to change the term ‘private company’ as mentioned in the 2013 formulation of the act to ‘private entity’ in the April 2015 ordinance, suggesting that this would enable the government to allot lands to any private entity on a large scale, leaving large numbers of farmers landless.

The letter further cautions if private entities were included in the acquisition of land for the purposes of defence manufacture, they could be lured by enemy states and join hands with them. Therefore, reconsideration of ‘general private entities’ in the ordinance with regards to land acquisition for defence manufacture was urgently needed.

The ordinance, dubbed categorically “anti-farmer” by Mr. Hazare, utterly lacked any scope for redressal on part of the farmer whose land had been acquired.

“If an aggrieved farmer wants to file case against someone who is or has been in the service of the Central or State government, the courts will not be able to take its cognisance without prior sanction of the government concerned,” he says in the letter.Mr. Hazare castigated the Centre for remaining deliberately vague for not spelling out which industries are covered under the land acquisition category of ‘base infrastructure projects.’

Also, the land mafia could very well misuse the land earmarked for government projects aimed at providing the poor with affordable housing.

The letter details several ‘ambiguous’ amendments in the ordinance, emphasising that it did not spell out which projects were Public-Private Partnership projects for which land would be acquired. It reiterates urgent demands for land-mapping and gradation of land on a scale from 1-6.

It warns that if this Act in the current form were to be implemented, it would have an adverse effect on the environment in long-run, severely upsetting the ecological balance and result in drought and unseasonal rains in large swathes.

Mr. Hazare said he expected the governments’ opinion on his letter by April 25.

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