Cabinet clears order to extend land reforms

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The cabinet cleared a new ordinance on land purchases on Tuesday, government officials said, extending measures to make transactions easier that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been unable to get onto the statute book.

The decree, which needs the president’s signature to take effect, represents a temporary workaround after opposition parties blocked legislation to make the changes permanent in parliament’s upper house.

Easing the way for investors to buy land for industrial projects in India has been a key focus of the Modi government’s reform efforts during its first year.

Billions of dollars of investment in industrial projects are tied up due to conflicts between farmers and companies trying to buy land, government backers say, hampering economic growth that could lift millions out of poverty.

Read About Land Bill Here

The new ordinance would renew an executive order issued by Modi in December that will lapse on April 5, as well as include some amendments added when the land bill was passed by India’s lower house of parliament this month.

In recent weeks, opposition parties have united and taken to the streets against the changes, which eased requirements for investors to seek consent from affected landowners, among other measures.

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Opposition leaders say the reforms are anti-farmer and would rob millions of their livelihoods. The Congress party, ousted by Modi last May, plans a major farmers’ rally on April 19 to protest against the land reforms.

The standoff comes amid growing discontent in northern India’s farm belt, where unseasonal rains have damaged winter crops. Farmers have criticised Modi’s government for not doing more to help.

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