Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally broke his silence on the controversial land acquisition ordinance in Parliament and said that the Centre is ready to make changes to the controversial Bill. Opposition parties and rights activists have gone on record to suggest the Bill will be anti-farmer in its present form. Although the Centre was initially reluctant to make any changes to the Act, saying that tougher clauses would be an impediment to a freer investment climate, it does not want to present a pro-corporate and anti-farmer image, especially with the Bihar assembly elections later this year. A panel led by Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah will now seek inputs from farmer groups on the controversial Bill.
This change in stance, though, comes at a critical time for the Indian economy, if one is to believe the Economic Survey for 2015-16. India’s economy is estimated to grow 8.1-8.5 per cent in the next fiscal year, higher than the 7.4 per cent estimated in 2014-15, according to the new measure of gross domestic product presented in the Survey. These figures, though, are a result of mere statistical jugglery. Looking beyond the current fiscal, meanwhile, the Survey had also argued that a “historic moment of opportunity” had been created that could “propel India on to a double-digit (growth rate) trajectory”.
Though the Survey stopped short of predicting “big-bang reforms”, it believes that the high growth trajectory will be achieved through low fuel prices, Centre-led reforms like diesel price deregulation, higher caps for foreign direct investment in defence and the coal ordinance, besides lower interest rates by the central bank, which could stimulate further investment. Land, however, is also key issue too. Around a third of the top 100 stalled projects, which make up around 93 per cent of all stalled projects in the CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy) records, are stuck due to land acquisition issues, according to a study. The government, therefore, will have to find a middle ground, which satisfies both the farmer and assures members of industry that their projects will not be stalled.