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Going slow on land acquisition

Going slow on  land acquisition
It was double whammy for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The first good news was about the Supreme Court stay order in the Singur land acquisition case. In this case, the apex court has stayed the Calcutta High Court order that went against Mamata Banerjee’s stand of introducing a bill to take back part of the land given to the Tatas by the previous Left government. The Supreme Court has stayed the high court order, thereby vindicating Banerjee’s claim that the bill was for the larger good of the farmers who had unwillingly handed over land to the previous government to build a motor factory. Though the last word on the case is some time away, Banerjee can feel relieved that the apex court has taken a stand, even if temporary, that vindicates her and her government’s overall apathy of any kind to land acquisition for business purposes. Her second triumph is related to the first. It is about her opposition to the new land acquisition bill that the Parliament was to take up on Thursday for discussion. As per report, it was because of Banerjee’s steadfast opposition to the bill and the idea that the goverment must acquire land for purposes of industrial profit, that the centre has dithered on going too aggressively on the bill. Banerjee is camping in Delhi and has met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram more than once to impress upon them a few of her demands. And it is widely believed that she could armtwist the government secretly to not go further on the land acquisition bill at the moment. It is of course well known that Banerjee is opposed to large scale land acquisition for industry, finance sector reforms and FDI in multiple retail. But till Pranab Mukherjee was at the helm at the finance ministry, Mamata found it difficult to go ahead with her demands specially for a financial package for Bengal. P Chidambaram is said to have been more receptive to her demands for a better deal to Bengal. Its a productive quid-pro-quo.

Whichever way one looks at it, Banejee is right in convincing the government that going too aggressively on the new Land Acquisition Bill would be a bad idea. And she is not alone in her opposition to the Bill in its current form. The Medha Patkar led National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) is severely opposing this bill on grounds that it has obliterated all issues raised by NAPM and other sectoral and general NGOs and other forums about farmers’ rights to land and livelihood. The same applies to those who live near forests and are dependent on it for their survival. The Bill could create more political uncertainty for UPA, and by opposing it, is actually proving to be its good friend.
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