Government gives House panel a miss, delays Land Bill

New Delhi(dna): While the ruling BJP has been blaming the Opposition for stalling its reform agenda, on Thursday, however, it was the government itself which gave a miss to the meeting of joint committee of Parliament that is scrutinising the controversial amendments in the land acquisition bill. Five secretaries of departments of industry, power, agriculture, rural developments and industrial promotion didn’t turn up at the meeting at the Parliament House for deposition. The day was reserved for the government depositions, before the committee headed by the BJP MP SS Ahluwalia could wrap up its proceedings and finalise the report.

Sources said while the industry secretary Amitabh Kanth had sent a formal letter saying he was in Edinburgh, other secretaries were in Delhi attending a meeting called by parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu. The committee has now fixed July 21 as the next day of hearing from top government officials. It has now also sought another extension till August 3.

Immediately after the meeting began on Thursday, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for calling chief ministers to discuss the land acquisition bill in the NITI Ayog governing body despite the fact that it was pending before the committee. Asserting that the PM has insulted Parliament for forum hopping when the committee is seized of the Bill as per the wish of both the Houses of Parliament, Pawar asked the committee’s chairman Ahluwalia to complain to Lok Sabha speaker and Rajya Sabha chairman to reprimand Modi for overstepping a Parliament body.

Samajwadi Party’s Ramgopal Yadav, Biju Janata Dal’s Bhrutlahri Mehtab and Congress members also backed Pawar’s allegation that the government was undermining Parliament by suggesting that the laws can be made even in the states bypassing the country’s highest lawmaking body. They wanted the chairman to lodge a strong protest.

Meanwhile, the Congress also blasted finance and information & broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley for floating a “trial balloon” of allowing the states to make their own land acquisition law if it remains blocked in Parliament.

“The 2013 law is anchored on Entry 42 of the Constitution, putting the acquisition of properties in the concurrent list, and as such the states can improve it but can’t subtract benefits from it,” affirmed Congress spokesman Jairam Ramesh, who had initiated the Bill as the then rural development minister.

The idea suggested by Jaitley that the states wanting to remove the hurdles in rapid development can enact own laws is possible only if the Central law is withdrawn or repealed, he said.