Indian media: PM Narendra Modi defends land bill

Mr Modi has assured India's farmers that the land bill will not harm their interests Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Modi has assured India's farmers that the land bill will not harm their interests

Papers in India are discussing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's defence of a controversial bill which aims to ease rules for acquiring land for infrastructure projects.

In his monthly radio address on Sunday, Mr Modi said the opposition was spreading lies that the bill was anti-farmer.

"A lie is being spread that the compensation under the new bill would get reduced. Let me assure you I would never commit such a sin," the Hindustan Times quotes Mr Modi as saying.

The bill was passed in the lower house of India's parliament earlier this month. It now faces a test in the upper house where Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) doesn't have a majority.

The government says the bill is aimed at kick-starting stalled projects across the country worth billions of dollars.

But opposition parties see it as anti-farmer and believe that it favours industrialists.

Papers feel that Mr Modi's defence was "commendable" but the BJP may have to put more effort for the final passage of the bill.

Mr Modi used "folksy stories… to buttress his point on public-private partnerships, but neatly sidestepped the criticism that the model of executing projects itself has faced in the past," the First Post website notes.

Image copyright Ankit Pandey
Image caption Opposition parties say that the bill is anti-farmer

It also adds that the timing of Mr Modi's speech is "flawed" as it comes amid a growing number of farmer suicides in different parts of the country.

Unseasonal rains have severely impacted crops in many parts of the country, putting huge pressure on poor famers.

"At a time the nation's farmers are reeling from crop loss, and even political rivals like [opposition Congress party president] Sonia Gandhi meet with farmers to express sympathy, his timing on a bill that deals with them selling off their land may have not been ideally timed," the website says.

The Scroll website, meanwhile, notes that the land bill is bigger than just another political issue.

"Clearly, the Land Bill problem for the government is not just a purely political one. It's a perception issue. People have been convinced that the amended law… is anti-farmer," an article in the website says.

'Shock' for disabled athletes

Elsewhere, a major fire broke out in an air conditioning power plant in the parliament complex in Delhi on Sunday, but nobody was injured, the Hindustan Times reports.

"Fire officials present on the spot said that the plant - located on the periphery of the parliament building-was undergoing maintenance work and the fire could have been triggered of by the welding of the airconditioning wires," the paper reports.

A fire service official said it could be a possible case of negligence.

"There are certain norms, guidelines one should follow while doing the maintenance work at vital installations such as the Parliament House. Clearly it was not followed," the paper quotes the official as saying.

Expressing concerns, President Pranab Mukherjee has called for a probe into the incident.

And finally, the sports ministry has expressed shock at the lack of basic facilities at a national level para-athletic competition in the northern city of Ghaziabad, The Times of India reports.

The disabled athletes had to deal with poor accommodation, lack of drinking water and unfurnished toilets, reports said.

The sports ministry said it would issue an advisory about minimum standards required to avoid such incidents.

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