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Nitin Gadkari justifies land bill, says acquisitions have made both industrialists and farmers "happy"

By Our Representative
Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari has asserted that, thanks to industrialization in India, land prices have zoomed and farmers are "willing to give up their land", living happily thereafter. One who has emerged as the most vocal advocate of the Land Acquisition Bill, currently pending Rajya Sabha nod to be turned into an Act, the top minister says, "Those who are giving up their land are happy and the ones acquiring them are also happy."
Speaking in one of the most comprehensive interviews on the land bill in the recent past, he says, the controversy around the land bill is sought to be triggered by those who have nothing to do with land. He believes, "There is not a single thing in the new Bill that is against the farmer", one reason why, he suggests, if by April 5, the bill lapses without being passed in the Rajya Sabha, the ordinance might be repromulgated to allow it remain a law for six more months.
Described as "the key strategist" in Parliament and outside on the land bill, speaking on its "advantages", Gadkari points to reasons why his government decided to drop social impact assessment (SIA) and consent. According to him, in the earlier Act of 2013, which the Bill is seeking to replace, for instance, even to build a dam in an area of 3,000 acres one had to take the consent of 80 per cent of the farmers, "which is impossible".
He says, consent would merely deprive farmers of the irrigation facilities on, say, 3 lakh hectares, leading to the possibility that they might "commit suicide". He adds, As for industrial corridors, which too are out of SIA and consent clauses, because, according to him, if the consent clause remains, "no development can happen." The industrial corridor between Mumbai and Delhi would need industrialization, which would only help "development".
Talking on no need for consent, he says, "For example, your area doesn’t have parking space. As a minister, I decide to widen the road. To widen the road, I need to bring down your building. Will your management give the consent to demolish the building? The consent clause is against farmers’ interest. Don’t you need schools in villages? Don’t you need hospitals, transformers, electricity in villages? You need irrigation, you need canals. If you don’t give land for rural infrastructure, how will villages progress?"
Rejecting the perception that industrialists want land to for only speculation, Gadkari, "No industrialist comes to the government for land acquisition. Reliance needed land in Navi Mumbai for an SEZ. They paid 1.5 times the market rate and got it. People used to come to us, requesting us to ask Reliance to buy their land. No industrialist, no private university owner comes to the government for land. They first acquire 300 acres and then come to the government, requesting for land use to be changed."
And why was there an opposition to the land bill within the Sangh Parivar? Says Gadkari, this happened because the Bill was early "only in English, which was hard for several of our MPs to understand." He adds, "Several MPs came to me after reports said that the proposed changes were against farmers. The PM asked me to speak to them in Hindi. I did that."
Pointing towards how the land ordinance has helped over the last six months to quicken up project, Gadkari says, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) had "189 projects costing Rs 3,80,000 crore. Of these, roughly 100 projects had land-related problems, which have been solved. There were 40 projects that could not be started and in 99 per cent cases, the reason was the government -- Centre and states -- land acquisition."

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