States keen on having own land laws, says Jaitley

New Delhi, July 15 (IANS) Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Wednesday that many states were keen on having their own land laws if there was a delay in building consensus over the land bill being considered in parliament.

Briefing media persons after Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired the second meeting of the governing council of the NITI Aayog, Jaitley said there were no two views that land was necessary for development.

The meeting, boycotted by chief ministers of the Congress-ruled states, took place a few days ahead of the monsoon session of parliament which begins on July 21. The meeting was attended by 16 chief minsters, including eight from the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Congress is opposed to the land acquisition bill of the National Democratic Alliance government which seeks to amend the land bill enacted by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2013.

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment Bill, 2015, is at present being considered by a joint committee of both houses of parliament.

Jaitley took a dig at Congress chief ministers who did not attend the meeting.

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

He said many chief ministers suggested that the central government should work towards evolving a consensus on the land acquisition bill.

“The chief ministers said that either the Centre must evolve a consensus, or give enough flexibility to states to frame their own land law. They (the states) said they cannot wait indefinitely for a consensus,” Jaitley said.

The minister said many chief ministers told the meeting that delay in land acquisition was slowing down development projects.

He said Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was of the view that time was not appropriate for changing the previous land law while Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the 2013 act should be tried for some time.

Jaitley said an alternate view was that states have faced hurdles in development due to delay in land acquisition.

“Every chief minister gave several examples. Land is needed for creating alternative employment for farmers, labourers. It is required for development, infrastructure, industry, jobs, housing,” he said.

Jaitley said the NDA government had moved forward to change the 2013 act after receiving feedback from states, including those belonging to the UPA, about difficulties in its implementation.

He said some parties and chief ministers who wanted changes in the bill subsequently changed their positions.

Jaitley said Prime Minister Modi told the meeting that views of states would be kept in mind.

He said some of the chief ministers who could not come due to preoccupation spoke to the prime minister.

Asked about the way forward in parliament with the land bill pending in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said there will not be compromise with the country’s development and the government will also keep in mind interests of farmers.

He said the joint committee of parliament would continue with its task.

Asked about the need for consultation with chief ministers when the joint committee was already looking at the bill, Jaitley said consultation with states was absolutely important on all sensitive issues and the NITI Aayog was the most important platform for such discussion.

“The prime minister said they (states) should be integral part of discussion,” Jaitley said.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis told the meeting that 13 laws for acquiring land by the Centre were exempt from social impact assessment, consent and right to food act considerations but the states had no such provision.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said the state government had been acquiring land by providing adequate compensation and through a process of implied consent.

Apart from nine Congress chief ministers, those who did not come for the meeting included West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

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