New Delhi: Telling farmers that "lies" were being spread about the new land acquisition bill, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday asserted that the proposed law was in farmers' interest as it will improve infrastructure, employment, output and incomes in rural areas.
Reaching out to farmers in his "Mann Ki Baat" programme on All India Radio, Modi took several digs at the Congress and other parties for their opposition to the bill, which could not be taken up in the Rajya Sabha -- where the government lacks majority -- in the budget session's first half. The Congress however termed Modi's address "false talk".
Narendra Modi. Pic/ AFP
Without naming any party or group, Modi said "misinformation" was being spread against the new bill for "political reasons" and made a point-by-point rebuttal to criticism while denying that it favours the corporates. "The misinformation which is being spread... it is against the farmers.
It is a conspiracy to keep the farmer poor... it is part of conspiracies not to take the country forward. We have to protect ourselves from this, save the country, save the farmer," he said. In his about 35-minute-long talk, he said he felt the pain of farmers in their letters to him and will ensure that his government is more responsive to their concerns.
"Reading all this, I sometimes feel ashamed about what we have done. I have no answer but your issues have touched my heart. I will strive for meaningful change," Modi said. The new bill brought by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has evoked resistance from activists as well as several political parties especially the Congress which wants the provisions of the land bill passed in 2013 be restored.
But as the bill has not been passed in parliament, the ordinance amending the 2013 Act is slated to lapse in early April. Contending the 2013 law was brought "in a hurry", Modi said his government had sought to remove its shortcomings, and was prepared to make further improvements if there were any constructive suggestions.
Noting that there was demand from states to change the 2013 law, he said any state not wanting to implement the new bill, was free to do so. On the concern that the new bill dilutes social impact assessment and consent clauses of the 2013 Act, he said the previous legislation also did not have provision for consent for land required for government projects. "For private industry, for corporate (sector), for private factories, the consent clause is applicable, applicable, applicable," he emphasised.
Attacking the Congress, Modi said "those who are agitating now" had acquired land for over 60 years through the law framed by the British, referring to the 1894 law that was in force till 2013. Stressing that "a lie" was being spread that the new bill was pro-corporate, he said: "The laws for them (corporates) will be the same as in the 2013 law."
Assuring farmers that land will be strictly acquired as per needs, he said: "I urge you not to take a decision based on lies, do not be misinformed... Our effort is to take right steps for the welfare of farmer and the village." The prime minister also said his government was taking proactive steps to mitigate problems of farmers whose crops had suffered damage in the recent rains.
Terming Modi's address "false talk", Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala accused Modi of favouring capitalists and failing to keep his promises to farmers. "Shortage of urea, seeds has led to black-marketing... Farmers have reached this conclusion that they have been hit by the weather and Modi," he said.