On a day when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley criticised the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, former union minister M Veerappa Moily said on Thursday that because of the “enthusiasm” of Jairam Ramesh, the UPA government may have “pushed through” some things which could have been “avoided”, but it was a “pro-farmer legislation”.
“There was a need for a law like what we brought. I don’t say that it is 100 per cent foolproof. Because of the enthusiasm of Jairam Ramesh, we pushed through certain things which could have been avoided. That does not mean that you indiscriminately acquire the land of farmers without their consent,” said the former Law Minister.
Ramesh, as the then Rural Development Minister, piloted the Act.
Moily’s comments came days after Ramesh hit out at some of his former ministerial colleagues, particularly former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, claiming that they had reservations about some provisions of the Act. In an interview to Scroll.in, Ramesh said Chidambaram had raised the same arguments as Jaitley.
“It’s interesting that Mr Chidambaram wrote a column in The Indian Express against the ordinance, calling it “anti-farmer”, “anti-people”, now that he’s no longer the Finance Minister,” he had said. Stating that the contrasting views that existed within the Congress do not matter now, he had said, “Mr Chidamabaram is irrelevant now. He is no longer the Finance Minister.”
Criticising Ramesh for his remarks, Moily said: “I don’t think any of our leaders should now say this man had opposed, that man had opposed. There was a discussion in the cabinet… and there will be churning. No legislation came out without a churning when the Congress was in power. Churning is a good thing, it is a virtue. Anand Sharma or Chidambaram cannot be blamed for that today… We had all supported that Bill.”
Moily said the UPA had brought a “progessive” law. “Consent (of landowners) is must… even if it is not 80 per cent… And social impact assessment study has to be done. The point is that you cannot just take away fertile land. People were agitating over this matter… So a solution had to be found… There may be a few things which must have hindered industrial development, but what is important is that the core of the legislation protected the interest of farmers,” he said.
“But now they (NDA government) have just forgotten the main theme. This is what we are concerned about,” he said. “It was an excellent piece of legislation. That does not mean everything is 100 per cent correct. With time, it can be corrected. But this is not the kind of correction. NDA is destroying the interest of farmers.”
On allegations of policy paralysis during the UPA-II’s tenure, Moily said: “That policy paralysis was because of the negative attitude of some of our ministers.”