LONG BEFORE two farmers were shot dead in Bhatta-Parsaul, long before Rahul Gandhi sneaked into Greater Noida villages on a motorcycle, long before the media went on a wild goose chase for “74 mounds of ash”, long before the Centre promised to change the archaic Land Acquisition Act, members of the National Advisory Council (NAC) under Sonia Gandhi had suggested key changes to this Act.
Back then, the government had chosen to ignore these. Now with the Uttar Pradesh election slated for next year and the Congress planning to make land a key poll issue against Mayawati, there is a sudden rush.
The government now wants the amended Bill to be passed in the coming monsoon session. On its part, the NAC has reiterated its amendments and added a few more. One of the key suggestions is to merge the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill with the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill.
Members of the NAC working group, which include Harsh Mander, Aruna Roy and NC Saxena, have also demanded the right of people to challenge the claim of ‘public purpose’ and bringing the provisions of RTI into the legal proceedings of the land acquisition process. As the interviews alongside show, there have been some differences of opinion between Mander and Saxena on issues like the role of the state and Central governments in land acquisition and prior informed consent of the affected parties.
At least this is a start of a debate.
Kunal Majumder is a Correspondent with Tehelka.