Modi backs down on con­tro­ver­sial land re­form

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi on Sun­day an­nounced he was ditch­ing an ex­ec­u­tive or­der aimed at mak­ing it eas­ier for busi­ness to buy land, in a ma­jor set­back for his re­formist gov­ern­ment.

Modi said he would let the or­di­nance lapse on Mon­day, fol­low­ing large-scale farmer protests led by a resur­gent op­po­si­tion to the re­form, which he pledged soon af­ter form­ing gov­ern­ment last year.

In his monthly ra­dio ad­dress to the ru­ral heart­land, the premier lashed out at what he de­scribed as the spread­ing of false ru­mors that made farm­ers op­pose the re­form.

“We had brought in an or­di­nance on land ac­qui­si­tion which is laps­ing on Aug. 31, and I have de­cided to let it lapse,” he said.

Modi won a land­slide elec­tion vic­tory last May on a pledge to re­form and re­vive Asia’s third largest econ­omy, but some of his big­gest ini­tia­tives have hit road­blocks.

His right- wing gov­ern­ment has strug­gled to pass the land and other key bills in par­lia­ment where his Bhar­itya Janata Party (BJP) lacks a ma­jor­ity in the up­per house.

The gov­ern­ment has had to is­sue tem­po­rary ex­ec­u­tive or­ders three times since an­nounc­ing the land bill in De­cem­ber af­ter fail­ing to push it through the cham­ber to make it per­ma­nent.

Party lead­ers have

hinted

in re­cent weeks that the or­di­nance would be dropped, but it is the first time Modi has pub­licly con­ceded de­feat on the is­sue.

Modi said he will amend the bill to fa­vor farm­ers so that they do not face fi­nan­cial losses.

“We will ac­cept any sug­ges­tion in the in­ter­est of farm­ers,” he said.

The re­form is aimed at speed­ing up land ac­qui­si­tion for bil­lions of dol­lars worth of stalled in­fra­struc­ture and other de­vel­op­ment projects to boost the econ­omy.

But the main op­po­si­tion Congress party says the bill hurts In­dia’s 300 mil­lion farm­ers and agri­cul­tural la­bor­ers.

Protests by farm­ers have drawn tens of thou­sands of peo­ple and served as a ral­ly­ing point for anger among the ru­ral poor to­wards the Modi-led gov­ern­ment.

The pro­posed bill ex­empts projects re­lated to de­fense, ru­ral hous­ing and power, along with in­dus­trial cor­ri­dors, from the re­quire­ment that 80 per­cent of af­fected landown­ers must agree to a sale.

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