Is vocal Jairam Ramesh forced to tone down his ‘aggressive’ stance on Land Bill?
The new Rural Development minister Mr Jairam Ramesh’s first solemn pledge of putting the draft Land Acquisition Amendment Bill within a week
of his taking over has failed. Does it imply, after the initial
aggressive posturing, the pro-active minister is slightly toning down
his positioning vis-à-vis the much talked about legislation?
“It is not due to babudom….,” the minister told reporters here and
maintained that the draft bill will be put on the ministry’s website
by next week. This is truly in contrast to his media interaction on July 13, when he said the draft will be ready "within a week".
He also remained half-hearted to a question when asked whether the new land bill will be introduced in parliament and passed by winter session, he merely said, "I will try".
The minister had also on July 13 virtually reversed government’s hitherto
positioning on the highly controversial bill when he had said that his
ministry will not have any confrontation with Sonia Gandhi-led NAC.
The basic difference between the NAC and the Rural Development
ministry on the bill was on the quantum of role the state
(administrative mechanism) is going to have. While NAC had suggested
for 100 per cent role for the state, key UPA ally like Trinamul
Congress has been advocating for zero per cent state role.
In a modest contradiction to his last week’s remarks, Mr Ramesh today
merely said, “NAC’s views on the bill is one of the views”. He also
sought to give importance to the stance of Trinamul when he said,
“there are also other views like TMC who say zero role”. “The debate
is not about 70:30 or 100: 0 or anything like that. The state has to
play a facilitatory role in all the land transactions for
developmental works. It should have two vital elements,
industrialization along with compensation for land owners and
livelihood of those affected,” Mr Ramesh clarified.
He also said Trinamul MP Dr Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar met him today, but
maintained that they did not discuss the land issue.
To a question, he was aware of general perception that during the last
3-decades under Left, the rural development sector was neglected in
West Bengal and said he would visit the state soon. However, he said,
when the country’s ‘poverty-bowl’ is referred, the perception relates
to Bihar, MP, Odhisa, Chattisgarh, UP, Rajasthan and north east. He
said the chief malady in these states including Naxal-affected states
“is shashan ki kami (absence of civil governance)”. He said in order
to improve on that scale, his ministry will sign a MoU with the office
of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to allow comprehensive audit
of all its schemes.
Mr Ramesh, who held a meeting with CAG Mr Vinod Rai here today, said
the CAG had informed him that they were willing to appoint special
auditor generals for rural development and local government programmes
in eight states which get maximum funds from the rural development
ministry. “These will also include Congress-ruled Andhra, Maharashtra
and Rajasthan as we do not to do any politics on it,” he said. The
minister said he would be leaving on a two-day visit to Kanker and
Dhamtari, the Maoist-hit areas of Chhattisgarh, to review
implementation of rural development programmes.
It is for others to interpret now who has tamed Ramesh, either the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, as Ramesh does not enjoy good rapport with the
Prime Minister, or its the powerful 10 Janpath, who has asked him to go slow.