Tale of two ordinances and governments

In all likelihood, an ordinance for amendment to “The Right to fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013”, No.

Tale of two ordinances and governments

Farmers holding a protest in New Delhi. The present Land Bill has evoked an angry response from farmers and civil society activists. PTI

In all likelihood, an ordinance for amendment to “The Right to fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013”, No. 30 of 2013 will be issued for the fourth time after the present session of Parliament is over. It seems that the Bill will not be able to get approval from the Rajya Sabha and the government will resort to continuation with this law through the ordinance route. The 2013 Act was given assent by the President on September 26, 2013. It was passed by both houses of Parliament after long-drawn wrangling, but mostly with consensus. The Gazette notification in this regard was issued on September 27, 2013. This Act replaced the many-times amended “Land Acquisition Act of 1894”, which was enacted by the British colonial regime. The Government of India made the Act functional from December 31, 2013, after a Gazette notification in this regard was issued on December 19, 2013. 

Colonial Act

The British colonial act of 1894, like so many other colonial acts as Indian Penal Code of 1860 and many more was never fully repealed in "Independent" India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. There is unity and solidarity at least in preserving the colonial legacy! Pakistan and Bangladesh just replaced India with the name of their country in these colonial acts. So much for “liberation” from the colonial legal legacy, dubbed as anti-people and oppressive during the long-drawn out freedom struggle. In fact, the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 underwent a major "repeal-and-amendment" process during the British and post-1947 India, in 1914, 1938 and substantially in 1984. The resentment against this Act was so much that the present ruling party the BJP and its allies in the NDA, as Opposition in 2013, fully exploited the people's sentiments to the hilt against the Congress and the UPA government and brazenly adopted the now-being-repeated tactics( by Congress) to “disrupt Parliament.”

A.G. Noorani, in his celebrated book, The Trial of Bhagat Singh, offers some detail about it in his fourth chapter of the book, titled, Bombs in Central Assembly. Quoting the historian of the Congress and once-President of the party as Mahatma Gandhi's candidate, Dr Pattabhi Sitaramyya, Noorani tells that “the repressive Public Safety Bill was moved in the Central Legislative Assembly (today's Parliament) on September 10,1928 and referred to a select committee by 62 votes to 59. The Home Member, Sir James Crerar of the British colonial government, moved it as a Bill in the Assembly as per the select committee report, on September 24, for consideration. The motion was defeated by 62 votes to 61, with the casting vote of the Assembly President (the Speaker of today's Parliament), Vithalbhai Patel, the elder brother of Vallabhbhai Patel. 

Creating history

Like the present Modi government, the British government of the day was bent upon reintroducing the Bill, so it was in January 1929, creating a furore (as on the Land Act these days). President Vithalbhai Patel raised an objection to this Bill on April 2, 1929, in the  session of the Assembly and was to deliver his ruling on April 8, 1929. On April 8, 1929, another controversial Bill relating to workers' conditions was on the table — the Trade Disputes Bill, but the British government was able to get it passed with 56 votes to 38. This was known later as as the “Trade Disputes Act”, one of the most oppressive anti-worker Act of the British colonial government. imposed upon Indian workers. They could never dare to bring such an act into the British Parliament for British workers. However, when Vithalbhai Patel was about to give his ruling over the Public Safety Bill, being used as an ordinance, two bombs were thrown from the visitors gallery. 

These were accompanied by red leaflets thrown against these two Bills and slogans of "Long Live Revolution" and "Down with Imperialism” were shouted. These were thrown by Bhagat Singh and B K Dutt. This became history, but this history was created by the insistence of the British government to impose the anti-people Public Safety Bill, used as an ordinance, upon the Indian people. Now the Indian “rulers” are following the same route created by British colonial rulers in similar circumstances in past. Would it create another history? And in what form? 

The writer is a former Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and author of Understanding Bhagat Singh.

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