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ParliamentA parliamentary panel, headed by BJP MP S.S. Ahluwalia, is meeting on Monday to try to reach consensus in sorting out the land acquisition imbroglio which remains unresolved even after a colonial era law was replaced in 2014 by a new law.

The 21-member Joint Committee of Parliament examining the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015, is to have a crucial round of meeting on Monday, sources said.

“The committee members have already been circulated the replies received from the state governments on land acquisition proceedings that had been initiated under Land Acquisition Act, 1894, and the other status of land acquisition proceedings,” a committee member said.

The panel was granted extension on December 16, 2015, after replies from various state governments did not reach it in time.

The bill under consideration was passed in the Lok Sabha in March 2015, but was stalled in the Rajya Sabha and then referred to a joint parliamentary committee in May last year.

It seeks to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which was passed by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and came into effect in January 2014.

The 2013 law, in turn, had replaced the colonial era Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

The committee has been given a number of extensions after it failed to evolve general consensus on various provisions.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had initially brought in a few drastic changes in the legislation, especially in terms of compensation for landowners as against what was in the 2013 law, but climbed down after facing widespread protests of the opposition and the farmers’ organisations.

Union Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh has, however, denied that the change in the government stance on the sensitive bill was any kind of “climb-down”.

“There is nothing like climb-down or anything. When we referred the bill to the joint committee, we had said that we were of the view that there has to be a good speed for the process of land acquisition. But we also made it clear that farmers’ interests should not be ignored for that,” Singh told reporters recently.

A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of the panel echoed the minister, saying, “no question of climb-down or climb-up as parliamentary committees discuss and debate the bills only to bring in overall qualitative improvement in it”.

Three NDA allies, Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and Swabhimani Paksha, as well as organisations affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have voiced concern over removal of the consent clause and social impact assessment provisions from the 2013 law.

The Congress and the BJP members clashed on a number of occasions during the sittings of the panel. In a meeting in August last year, former rural development minister Jairam Ramesh (Congress) staged a brief walkout after he and his party colleagues were charged with “delaying” the business of the committee.

On November 23, 2015 meeting, the opposition members also had demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi be summoned before the committee to be quizzed.

The demand raised by Trinamool Congress member Kalyan Banerjee and supported by the Congress members was vehemently rejected to by BJP and Shiv Sena members.

Monday’s meeting assumes importance as it comes at the fag end of the first half of Budget session.

“The Congress party, which has the advantage of numerical strength in Rajya Sabha, had opposed government’s move to bring about any changes in the retrospective clause of the bill dealing with compensation,” a member of the committee told IANS.

The Lok Sabha members of the committee are K.V. Thomas, Rajiv Satav (both Congress), Anandrao Adsul (Shiv Sena), Kalyan Banerjee (Trinamool Congress), B. Mahtab (Biju Janata Dal), Mohammad Salim (CPI-M), Chirag Paswan (LJP), S.S. Ahluwalia, Udit Raj, Anurag Thakur and Ganesh Singh (all BJP).

The Rajya Sabha members are Ram Narain Dudi (BJP), Jairam Ramesh, Digvijay Singh (both Congress), Ram Gopal Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Sharad Yadav (Janata Dal-United), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Derek O’Brien (Trinamool) and Rajpal Singh Saini (Bahujan Samaj Party).