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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Centre to states at NITI Aayog meeting: Can’t keep waiting, bring your land bill

With chief ministers of most Opposition-ruled states boycotting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s latest attempt to build consensus over the land acquisition bill ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Wednesday that “states cannot indefinitely wait for that consensus” and want to enact their own land laws to push development. He said the Centre will approve laws enacted by “states which want to develop fast”.

Chairing the meeting in New Delhi, Modi told the chief ministers that the Centre and states must join hands to end the “political deadlock” over land acquisition which is seriously impacting development in rural areas including creation of schools, hospitals, roads and irrigation projects.

Justifying his government’s move to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, the Prime Minister said the Centre and states are on the same page on payment of enhanced compensation.

“Political considerations should not come in the way of a solution that will facilitate development of rural areas, and greater prosperity for farmers,” Modi told the chief ministers.

Emerging from a two-hour meeting of the NITI Aayog’s governing council, Jaitley said an “overwhelming number” of chief ministers said they are keen to bring their own legislations to make it easier to acquire land since they cannot wait indefinitely for amendment to the land bill.

“An important suggestion that came was that the Centre should endeavour to create a consensus but states cannot indefinitely wait for that consensus. If the Centre fails to approve this (bill) with consensus, then it should be left to the states. Those states which want to develop fast can suggest their own state legislations and Centre (will) approve that state legislation,” Jaitley said without naming the chief ministers.

The meeting was attended by chief ministers of 16 states. Chief ministers of nine Congress-ruled states besides those from West Bengal, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu skipped the meeting. Bihar’s Nitish Kumar, Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal and Tripura’s Manik Sarkar attended the meeting.

Jaitley said some chief ministers who could not come for the meeting due to pre-occupation spoke to Modi which was “understandable”.

“Those who chose to boycott must introspect whether not attending the NITI Aayog meeting is in consonance with the spirit of cooperative federalism. You can always come and express an alternative opinion,” he said.

On convening the meet, Modi said “it was appropriate that suggestions of states be listened to once again” before the Parliament session.

The land bill is currently being scrutinised by a joint committee of Parliament which is slated to give its report later this month. Jaitley said there will be no compromise on the development of the country. “We will keep interest of farmers in mind,” he said and quoted Modi as telling the meeting that all suggestions given by states will be considered.

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