The controversial land ordinance was on Sunday re-promulgated for the third time with President Pranab Mukherjee giving his assent notwithstanding opposition protests over the measure.
The Union Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, had decided to re-promulgate the ordinance, insisting it was necessary for maintaining continuity and providing a framework to compensate people whose land is acquired.
The ordinance will now have to be laid before both Houses of Parliament and shall cease to operate at the expiration of six weeks from the date of reassembly if it is not converted into law.
The President has given assent for the re-promulgation of the ordinance, official sources said.
The ordinance has been promulgated for the third time and it is the 13th executive order of the NDA government since it came to power in May last year.
The move came despite vehement protests by Congress whose vice president Rahul Gandhi termed the measure as reflecting the “amazing hurry” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “grab” land from the farmers.
Rahul, who has been aggressively opposing the land bill, both in Parliament and outside, has vowed to continue to the fight for the rights of the farmers.
“Modi ji in an amazing hurry to grab land from poor farmers at any cost. A 3rd attempt at pushing the anti-farmer Land Ordinance!”
“Congress Party will continue to fight for the rights of the kisan and mazdoor against this #suitbootkisarkar”, he had said in tweets soon after the Cabinet decided to re-promulgate the ordinance.
Senior leader Jairam Ramesh, who was the Rural Development Minister during UPA rule, said the Modi government had insulted Parliament by re-promulgation as a Joint Parliamentary Committee was already looking into the land bill.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also castigated the government for its action, saying it wanted to “snatch” the rights of farmers.
The ordinance was promulgated for the first time in December last year to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. It was then replaced by a bill. While Lok Sabha passed it with 10 official amendments, the government did not take it to Rajya Sabha where it lacked majority.
The ordinance was re-promulgated in March this year and would have lapsed on June 3. To re-promulgate the ordinance, the government had prorogued Rajya Sabha.
An amended land acquisition bill is under consideration of a joint committee of parliament.
The fresh ordinance is a copy of the bill pending before the Parliamentary committee and has no new provisions or changes, sources said.
The first meeting of the panel on Saturday saw a number of opposition members questioning the rationale behind changing the provisions of the 2013 law enacted by the UPA government.
While the 2013 law required the consent of 80 per cent of land owners be obtained for private projects and of 70 per cent for public-private partnership projects, the present bill exempts five categories– defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure, including PPP projects, where the government owns the land.
The 2013 ACT also mandated a social impact assessment to be conducted to identify affected families and calculate the social impact of land acquisition, a provision that has been done away with in the new bill.