Land bill unacceptable, Sonia Gandhi tells Centre
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday lashed out at the "myopic" Narendra Modi government over the land bill which she said was an "unabashed display of half truths".
Accusing the government of "bending over backwards" to favour select industrialists, Gandhi said her party would never support any law that harms farmers.
"Regrettable that anyone championing the voice of the distressed farmer and needy farm labourer is being branded 'anti-national' by a myopic (Narendra) Modi government bending over backwards to favour select industrialists," Gandhi said in a letter to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari.
She was responding to Gadkari's letter seeking the opposition's support for the land acquisition bill.
The government introduced a new bill to replace an ordinance which was promulgated in December last year to amend the 2013 law. The new law has come under criticism from opposition parties as well as activists who have termed it as anti-farmer and pro-industrialist.
The Congress chief also noted that the "fundamental difference" between the Congress and the BJP was in the way the two parties understand "farmers' distress and loss of livelihood" by acquiring land without safeguards.
"Being pro-farmer is not being anti-growth," she added.
"Farmers are the backbone of our country, and it is imperative that their interests be protected at any cost. This is non-negotiable for the Congress party. We shall never endorse any law that will break the backbone of this nation," she added.
Gandhi said: "In your letter you have sought to justify the changes you propose in the land acquisition legislation on the grounds that it promotes the interest of villages, the poor, farmers and labourers, and that it facilitates irrigation, employment, industrial corridors and the defence industry."
"Regrettably, all that you have said is without any foundation whatsoever. The UPA's and Congress Party's record on all these issues is second to none. And, it is now being widely recognized that your government is blatantly anti-farmer and anti-poor, compromising the rights of the weaker sections of society to benefit a handful of private parties."
Gandhi listed the fundamental differences which the party had with the new land bill, the prominent ones out of which were removal of consent clause and social impact assessment.
"Your attitude to these matters and your proposed legislation make a mockery of your claim that you stand for the interest of farmers," the letter said.
"Your government's position on defence, irrigation and electrification issues is a blatant attempt to divert attention from your anti-farmer amendments," the Congress president said.
She said the overall reality is that the amendments brought forward by the government "negate" the 2013 law in letter and spirit.
The government, which managed to get the bill passed in the Lok Sabha, faces an uncertain future in the upper house and is now banking on a joint session to get it passed. - IANS