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Land Bill: Opposition scores over government in Parliament

New Delhi(dna): An upbeat Opposition scored victory in both Houses of Parliament, blocking the mines bill in Rajya Sabha and in Lok Sabha forced the government to blink to introduce nine major changes in the land acquisition legislation. Riding on its numbers, united opposition forced the government to accept its reference to the select committee. Flexing muscles, Congress leaders later described that same fate was awaiting to all six ordinance-related Bills.

The latest ordinance on land acquisition was passed by Lok Sabha on Tuesday, after two days of debate.

A saving grace for the government in Rajya Sabha was, the deputy chairman P J Kurian deferred the motion to refer the Bill to the select committee till Wednesday to let both sides sit together and decide composition of the committee and duration by which it must come back to the House with its report.

The Rajya Sabha witnessed uproarious scenes and repeated adjournments even as the government in minority in the House struggled without success to prevent blockade of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill.

The Opposition insisted on referring the Bill to the House Select Committee for further examination as a tactic to make the related ordinance redundant if the Bill is not passed by April 6. Both sides quibbled on a lot of technicalities before a finality was reached for the select committee as the government gave up, knowing it has no numbers to scuttle the opposition’s tactic.

The technical objection of the government was that all the members for the committee were the opposition members and that will create a new precedent when it has no government representatives. A decision was finally taken by deputy chairman that the composition of the select committee and its timing will be decided in a meeting of both sides on Wednesday.

Angry leader of House Arun Jaitley attacked the opposition for creating a new constitutional complication if every decision of “the directly elected House” is derailed and wondered why refer the Bill to a committee when another Bill during the UPA regime with substantially same provisions had been already cleared by the parliamentary standing committee.

He went on to point out that blockade of the Bill will mean closure of 43 mines on March 31 rendering lakhs of labourers jobless. The government fielded one after another minister to denounce the blockade tactic adopted by the Opposition, just because it has a majority in the House.

In Lok Sabha, controversial land acquisition bill was passed with a score of government amendments. With the mood of Opposition, it is set to get stuck in the Rajya Sabha when brought on Saturday. The Opposition knew it did not have the numbers to scuttle the Bill but still it tried to push a large number of amendments calling the Bill as anti-farmers, but all of them were defeated, many with a division in which the government won by 294 to 315 votes at different stages.

The amendments brought by Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh sought to dispel the impression that the 2013 law was being amended to help the corporate sector, though the government still remained firm on not allowing farmers’ consent and social audit in certain cases. All official amendments were passed by voice vote.

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