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Need to put up demand to send Land Acquisition Bill to Parliamentary Committee

By Venkatesh Nayak*
The Government of India officially announced in the Lok Sabha on April 30, 2015 that it will table the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 (Land Bill) next week to replace the Ordinance that was promulgated for the second time on 03 April, 2015. This Land Ordinance is already operational and the Bill seeks to replace the Ordinance which amends the Land Acquisition Act (LARR Act) passed by Parliament in 2013 in many crucial areas. There are only three days left for the Lok Sabha to conclude its business next week starting May 5.
No formal public consultation yet on the amendment proposals. 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 LARR Act. This is a violation of Government of india’s own Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy (PLCP) adopted in January 2014 (click HERE to read).

The PLCP makes it mandatory for every department to:

  • “2… publish/place in public domain the draft legislation or at least the information that may inter alia include brief justification for such legislation, essential elements of the proposed legislation, its broad financial implications, and an estimated assessment of the impact of such legislation on environment, fundamental rights, lives and livelihoods of the concerned/affected people, etc. Such details may be kept in the public domain for a minimum period of thirty days for being proactively shared with the public in such manner as may be specified by the Department/Ministry concerned.
  • Where such legislation affect specific group of people, it may be documented and disclosed through print or electronic media or in such other manner, as may be considered necessary to give wider publicity to reach the affected people….
  • The summary of feedback/comments received from the public/other stakeholders should also be placed on the website of the Department/Ministry concerned….
  • The summary of pre-legislative process should also be placed before the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee by the Department/Ministry concerned when the proposed legislation is brought to the Parliament and is referred to the Standing Committee.
  • If the Department/Ministry concerned is of the view that it is not feasible or desirable to hold pre-legislative consultation as detailed above, it may record the reasons in the note for the Cabinet.”
So the requirement under PCLP is to place all details of the likely impact of the amendment proposals and seek people’s views. To the best of my knowledge no formal effort has been made in this regard. Further, there is no call for discussing the amendment proposals on the much touted public consultation platform. Instead one interesting topic mooted for discussion on this platform amongst several is: “Share your views for promotion of fabrics for fashion industry”. If readers know of any formal effort to seek people’s comments on the Land Bill, please enlighten me.
Apart from not complying with the requirements of PLCP, the Department of Land Resources has also refused to disclose the Cabinet Note relating to the Land Ordinance despite many of us asking for it under the RTI Act.

What can citizens do to demand formal public consultation on the Land Bill?

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.
Parliament has also created a mechanism for seeking people’s views on fresh Bills or proposals to amend existing laws- namely, referral to the Department-related Standing Committee. In this case the appropriate mechanism is the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development chaired by Shri Hukum Dev Narayan, MP (BJP). This committee has 21 members from the Lok Sabha and 10 members from the Rajya Sabha belonging to all major political parties click HERE to read).
As citizen taxpayers who are likely to be affected directly or indirectly by the proposals to amend the land acquisition law, everybody in India has the right to demand that the Land Bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Rural Development. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha has the power to refer the amendment Bill to this Committee if there is enough demand from the MPs and concurrence from the Government of India.
Here are several things you can do:
1) Tweet the message below from your Twitter account NOW:
“Land Bill must be sent to the Rural Development Parliamentary Committee” (70 characters)
2) Email the message below to the Lok Sabha Speaker’s Office at this address: speakerloksabha@sansad.nic.in and cc to s_mahajan@nic.in NOW
“Madam Speaker,
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, have not been consulted on the land acquisition amendment Bill. So, we urge you to send this Bill to the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development for deeper discussion and wider public consultation.
(Your name)”
Please feel free to translate this message into your language before emailing it.
3) Fax this message to the Lok Sabha Speaker’s Office at: 011-23792927,NOW
“Madam Speaker,
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, have not been consulted on the land acquisition amendment Bill. So, we urge you to send this Bill to the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development for deeper discussion and wider public consultation.
(Your name and signature)”
Please feel free to translate this message into your language before faxing it.
4) SMS this message to your Lok Sabha MP, NOW:
“Please urge the Lok Sabha Speaker to send the Land Acquisition Bill to the Parliamentary Standing on Rural Development for wider consultation.” (141 characters)
Please feel free to translate this message into your language before SMSing it.
5) Those of you who are registered on the Prime Minister’s website (pmindia.gov.in) please send the following message, NOW:
“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, urge you to recommend to the Lok Sabha Speaker to send the Land Acquisition Bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development for widespread public consultation.”

*Programme Coordinator, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi

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