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Last Updated : Apr 24, 2015 02:42 PM IST | Source: IBNLive.com

Rural woes, farmer's suicide force govt to delay Land Bill

The death of farmer Gajendra Singh, who hanged himself from a tree during Aam Aadmi party's anti-Land Bill rally in New Delhi on Wednesday, dominated debate in Parliament on Thursday.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has delayed the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill that will make it easier for industry to buy farmland, following anger over rising rural distress and the suicide of a farmer in New Delhi.


The death of farmer Gajendra Singh, who hanged himself from a tree during Aam Aadmi party's anti-Land Bill rally in New Delhi on Wednesday, dominated debate in Parliament on Thursday.


Two Cabinet ministers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Land Acquisition Bill, a revision to a 2013 land law, would not be brought up until the first week of May, reversing a previous line-up of legislative business.

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"The Land Bill is a challenge for us," one of the ministers said late on Wednesday, after several days of protests that culminated in the suicide.


Convinced that the previous land law would delay his industrial development agenda, Modi used executive decrees in December and April to loosen acquisition rules requiring 80 percent consent from landowners, but needs Parliament's approval to make the changes permanent.


Modi does not have a majority in the Upper House and with tempers running high over crop damage and low prices in the countryside, he risks delaying other legislation if the land bill is taken to debate too quickly and dominates proceedings in Parliament.


Sharing the pain


In a rare intervention in Parliament, Modi pleaded on Thursday for political parties to end their finger-pointing over the rural crisis and work together to improve the lives of the villagers.


"The issue of farmers' suicides has been a matter of concern for the whole country," he said. "I also share the pain. We should resolve to find a solution to this problem which is old and widespread."


More than a dozen debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide in India in recent weeks with many villagers who say they voted for Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014 Lok Sabha elections criticising his government for being slow to respond to the crop damage and falling commodity prices.


Spurred by opposition parties, farmers are also angry about the changes to the land law, which many fear will force them to sell holdings against their will. The law was the main target of Wednesday's rally, where Singh lost his life.


The rural crisis is the first major political challenge for Modi's one-year-old government. Unseasonal rains and hailstorms damaged about 9.4 million hectares of crops such as wheat, or 15.5 percent of the winter crop area, the Agriculture Ministry said.


Modi last week announced increased compensation for farmers who have suffered crop damage. The government blames local officials for being slow in releasing such funds.

Adding to concerns in the villages, government forecasters on Wednesday said the monsoon due to start in June was likely to be deficient.



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First Published on Apr 24, 2015 07:50 am
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