Friday, May 01, 2015

Seeking to place land acquisition bill in Parliament next week, Modi govt "ignores" pre-legislative consultation policy

By Our Representative
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s high-profile consultation platform, mygov.in, has no open space for discussion on the proposed amendments to the controversial land acquisition bill, 2015, which is scheduled to be placed before Parliament next week. A scan through the site suggests that the only bill it seeks public consultations on is Public Procurement Bill, 2012, which was introduced in the last Lok Sabha and was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
The “Open Forum” of the site, in fact, does not allow anyone to kickstart any new discussion of one’s choice. The only topic offered for online consultation on the land issue is “Modi’s Mann Ki Baat with farmers on March 22, 2015”, where there are few comments praising the Prime Minister for “clearing doubts” about the bill. The only “critique” of the bill finding its way in the discussion on the subject says that “the farmers are opposing it due to the misdeeds of the system”.
Commenting on the site, senior activist Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, says, there has so far been “no formal effort” to discuss the law, and “there is no call for discussing the amendment proposals on the much touted public consultation platform”. He adds, “Instead one interesting topic mooted for discussion on this platform (mygov.in) amongst several is ‘Share your views for promotion of fabrics for fashion industry’.”
A scan through the site suggests that issues put up for discussion range from a model bilateral investment treaty, celebration of International Day of Yoga, action that citizens can take against misleading advertisements, a parking policy for Mumbai, the Prime Minister’s Australia visit to carpet weaving, promotion of fabrics for fashion industry, silk’s elegance and comfort and how to tackle insanitary latrines and manual scavenging.
Suggesting that this suggests lack of “formal public consultation on the amendment proposals”, Nayak says, “Neither the department of land resources, which has the responsibility for all matters relating to land acquisition law under the Allocation of Business Rules, 1961, nor any other department of the Government of India has sought people's views on the proposals to amend the 2013 Land Acquisition Act.”
Calling it a “violation of Government of india's own Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy (PLCP) adopted in January 2014” (click HERE), Nayak quotes from the PLCP, which makes it necessary to “publish/place in public domain the draft legislation or at least the information that may inter alia include brief justification for such legislation”, and its possible impact on “lives and livelihoods of the concerned/affected people” in “public domain for a minimum period of thirty days.”
The PLCP also requires that a wider publicity be given to reach out to the affected people in case a legislation affects specific groups of people, even as documenting and disclosing through print or electronic media all the necessary details about it. It wants that, “the summary of feedback/comments received from the public/other stakeholders should be placed on the website of the Department/Ministry concerned”.
Calling this a necessary “pre-legislative process”, Nayak wonders, “What can citizens do to demand formal public consultation on the land bill?” He adds, “While there are many critics of the proposed changes to the land acquisition law, there are several others who support it. Parliament must have the benefit of all views and opinions on the subject before it makes an informed decision on the amendment proposals - whether to approve, further amend or reject.”

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