The Indian Parliament and the Question of Land
Land is one of those rare issues that has animated Indian Parliament and been intensely debated from the 1950s to contemporary times. One of the key elements of the very first amendment to the Indian Constitution, passed by the provisional parliament in 1951, was related to land reform and the abolition of zamindari or large land holdings. In response to court rulings that declared zamindari abolition laws as unconstitutional, Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress reacted by inserting Article 31A in the Constitution which stipulated that nothing in the Fundamental Rights could be used to strike down laws for the appropriation of property. The most important component of the First Amendment was, however, Article 31B, which created the Ninth Schedule where legislation could be put and made immune from judicial review. Thirteen land reform Acts were placed in the schedule. This chapter analyses the parliamentary debates on land, beginning with the First Amendment and continuing to the contemporary period where the BJP government attempted to amend the 2013 Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act. The chapter examines three broad questions. How has the issue of land, land reform, and land acquisition been framed over time in parliament? How much have contemporary politics influenced the debate? What have been the recurrent themes as well as radical departures in the debates on land?
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