Union minister Nitin Gadkari in an exclusive interview to Rajya Sabha TV has said that the land acquisition bill brought in by the NDA govt is in the interest of the farmers and opposition parties are misleading the farmers through a false propaganda. Justifying his pro farmers stand, Gadkari says that 80 percent of the land acquired in the country is for irrigation purpose, so is that acquisition in the interest of the farmers or the corporates. Taking a dig at senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, Gadkari said why did not Congress talk about consensus and social impact assessment when they gave coal mines at throwaway prices to the rich industrialists. Allaying fears on the compensation part he said that farmers should be happy that now an adequate mechanism will be put in place to ensure 4 times the price of the market rate to the farmers in rural areas and double the price in the urban areas. On the recent National Green Tribunal ban order to phase out 10 years old diesel vehicles from the Delhi roads he said he respected the order but has to keep in mind the economic aspect where probably phasing out personal vehicles will be difficult on which he is already talking to the stakeholders and will be consulting the cabinet as well. Gadkari said that need of the hour was to make the emission norms more aggressive. Giving a road map to his inland waterways program, Gadkari said that waterways was his top priority as it would de-congest the roads and cost wise also it is cheaper. He reiterated that waterways program will face no hurdles as states are extending full cooperation. On the communal narrative of the NDA govt, Gadkari said that Bangladeshis caught in the nun rape case of West Bengal were in no way related to BJP or RSS and it’s the Opposition parties that are politically thriving on such negative propaganda.
Here is the full text of the interview given to Anchor Neelu Vyas of Rajya Sabha TV
Q: People say it’s an anti-farmer bill and pro-industry bill. How will you convince the farmers?
Ans: Bill is in the interest of the farmers. We have made just five amendments, to the UPA bill, exemptions have been given to five categories, rural infrastructure, electrification . . . . 80 percent of the land in India is acquired for irrigation, then is it in the interest of the farmers or corporate?
Q: Situation on the ground is awful in terms of compensation, people have not been paid what they were promised?
Ans: Compensation now is 4 times the market rate in the rural areas and double in urban areas, so farmers should be happy. We are devising a mechanism with the help of the state governments to ensure full compensation. This bill is in the interest of the farmers because when industries come up in villages they will help the youths of the villages.
Q: Do you agree that the timing of the bill was not right?
Ans: Opposition is politicizing the bill, country is facing tough times, we need capital investment, increased GDP, per capita income and we have to eradicate poverty. It will happen in the villages not in the cities, we need land for roads, electrification etc. The coal mines scandal ran into crores, I want to ask Jairam Ramesh when you acquired land for coal mines you gave to it to the rich people and at that time you did not require consensus, social impact assessment, therefore stop politicising the issue, it’s not in the interest of the country.
Q: This new land bill has set no yardsticks for defining the term ‘public purpose’ examples being hospitals and educational institutions; will they not be profit organisations?
Ans: We are not giving land for private use. This is a negative propaganda, ministers are going to the farmer groups and they are convinced now, after ‘mann ki baat’ farmers look convinced. I am confident people are with us.
Q: Because of SEZ policy failure farmers are scared, therefore their fears are not misplaced?
Ans: Irrigation project does not belong to private developers, some authorities acquired land and sold it to the real estate developers, we have to protect the interest of the farmers, price will be paid to the farmers. We are making models by which we will make farmers equal entities.
Q: Bureaucrats will not be accountable according to the new land bill as they will need a prior sanction of the state before prosecuting them?
Ans: This is rubbish. Land is in the three lists, rules are made by state government. Hooda ji will make a rule, Ammaji will make a rule, Prithviraj Chavan will make a rule, it’s up to the state governments to make the proper rules, as far as centre is concerned only five amendments have been made and we are balancing the interest of the farmers and the industry.
Q: NGT has banned diesel vehicles. Is the Transport ministry not in agreement?
Ans: We respect the order, we need ‘Swatch Bharat’, ‘Pradooshan Mukt Bharat’. Judgement is correct, economic situation is bad, we are thinking of making some options, we are discussing with the stakeholders, I don’t want to say much on this.
We have submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court and we are going to implement Euro 4 norms.
Q: Is banning an option?
Ans: There are lot of options like converting diesel into CNG vehicles. Pollution is a big problem.
Q: There is lot of Resistance for banning personal vehicles?
Ans: We are reading the judgement after that we will find out what cabinet says, we have to take the opinion of stakeholders.
Q: At the moment 38 cities are compliant to Bharat stage-4 fuel vehicles. How easy is it to internationalise the standards?
Ans: Many things are involved, it’s easy to say that we need euro 6, but there are many things like the involvement of the automobile industry, but we have to maintain standards, we have to be sensitive to pollution.
Q: Inland waterways will de-congest the roads, what will waterways actually do? People have a very utopian idea of waterways?
Ans: In China 47 percent traffic is on waterways, in Korea and Japan it is 40 percent, in India it is 3.5 percent. I give priority to waterways , it’s cheaper, less accident prone. Work on five waterways have started in this session. We will bring the inland waterways bill; 101 water bodies will also be developed. But a policy has to be made so that states can work in conjunction with the centre.
Q: Will the waterways development be on the PPP model?
Ans: Two multi-model hubs at Varanasi and Haldia will be made. First we will start, it’s too early to say anything on PPP model, first we will use our money but first the policy has to be made? I am getting full cooperation from the states on this.
Q: Will not the nods from various ministries time taking? As what we saw in the UPA regime various ministries were at loggerheads?
Ans: We will make the process fast. My dream is to connect India with inland waterways.
Q: You have formed a 10-member task force, one of the members being Mohan Das Pai. What will this task force do?
Ans: It will plan strategize E-Governance. My approach is to make E-Governance possible. I appointed this committee, they will give the report. All my ministries will be governed by this.
Q: This government has double narrative one of development and the other is communal . . . how will you ensure minorities feel safe?
Ans: Two culprits in the nun rape case of West Bengal were Bangladeshis. In many cases none of our organisations are involved. It’s a false and wrong impression spread by parties like Congress. They instill these ideas for vote bank politics.
Q: Are reports on ‘Ghar Wapsi’ false?
Ans: There are thousands of people changing religion; it’s not a political subject. Everyone has right to practice whatever religion they follow. Our government is committed to development of this country, we don’t want to play politics on caste and creed. Some parties have a political agenda and they say this government is against the minorities, they are against farmers. I am confident that people are with us.