With opposition mounting campaign over Land Acquisition Bill, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday reached out to farmers, telling them that “lies” are being spread over the measure for “political reasons” to create confusion among the farming community.
Speaking on the issue over radio in his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme, he insisted there were some “lacunae” in the Land Act of 2013 “as it was enacted in a hurry” and these are being addressed while protecting the interests of farmers and villages.
Referring to his statement in Parliament, Modi maintained that the government is willing to consider any changes in the bill that would be beneficial for the farmers.
He made a veiled attack on Congress, saying “those projecting themselves as sympathisers of farmers and undertaking protests” had been using a 120-year-old law to acquire farm land for over 60-65 years after Independence and were now targeting his government which is “trying to improve upon the Act of 2013″.
During the 30-minute programme, he underlined that the new bill being brought by his government has the same compensation provisions as in the 2013 Act and emphatically rejected that the new measure was aimed at benefiting the corporates.
He also said that ‘no consent’ provision in the proposed new law applies to acquisitions by government for government or PPP projects and insisted that the same clause exists in the previous Act.
“I am surprised that all kinds of misinformation are spread,” he said, focusing on the issue over which his government has come under severe attack and united the opposition parties.
“In the Act of 2013 there were certain lacunae… Our attempt is to address these lacunae to ensure that the law is beneficial for villagers, farmers, and their future generations and to ensure they get electricity and water,” he said.
“I said in Parliament also that even now if somebody feels that something is still lacking, we are ready to make improvements”.
“Our commitment is to ensure benefits for farmers through the Land Acquisition Act..So many lies are being spread. .It is my fervent appeal to farmers not to make decisions on the basis of these lies. Don’t be misled,” he said, adding, “You trust me, I will not betray your trust.”
Specifically referring to the consent clause issue, he said misinformation is being spread for “political reasons”.
“Our intention is only to see that farmers benefit, their children benefit, villages benefit. So if there are any lacunae in the law, these must be addressed. This is our priority,” the Prime Minister said.
To buttress his point about lacunae in the Act of 2013, he said when the law was implemented, it was realised that “perhaps farmers have been cheated. We have no right to cheat the farmers.”
“Rumours are being spread that Modi is bringing the law to reduce compensation. I can’t even think of committing such a sin. . . Such misinformation is being carried out for political reasons. You have to guard against them,” Modi told the farmers.
The Prime Minister said the government has tried to make the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) less time-consuming and less complicated as farmers’ interests would be hurt if the process goes on for years.
Rejecting the charge that the bill is pro-corporate and pro-rich, Modi asked if a road, a canal or houses are built in a village through PPP model, would the private partners take those away with themselves.
“Public-Private Partnership (PPP) means only that private companies put in money because government does not have so much money,” he explained.
He also rubbished “misinformation” that farmers would have no legal recourse left. He said there is a provision for an Authority at zilla level which can be approached for redressal of grievances and if some farmer is not satisfied, he can approach a higher court.
“Those making laws in air-conditioned rooms do not know the ground reality,” PM Modi said.