A statement People’s Movements,
New Delhi: (27 February 15/ Press Release): Forcible land acquisition has always been an issue of life and death for millions of people in India, not only farmers but also agricultural laborers and fish workers. With the Land Ordinance it has become a political hot-potato. More than 350 people’s organizations gathered at the Parliament Street on February 24th, with 25,000 people from Gujarat to Orissa to Assam, and from Himachal Pradesh to Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It has forced the political parties to take a stand on the issue and leading to heated debate and discussion on the floor of the Parliament. It is certainly a result of the anti-farmer and anti-poor move of undemocratically amending the 2013 Act on Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation to the extent of killing its very spirit and purpose.
The ordinance brought in by the NDA government just after the Winter session of the Parliament came to an end was an obvious imposition on the country’s common people of the same colonial legacy of the perverted vision of development through an unjust and undemocratic modus operandi. Ordinance is an attempt at opening of the land that is life support, source of livelihood and shelter for India’s toiling masses, to the wealthy investors, including big corporations and builders. It is to forcibly divert India’s agricultural land at the cost of food security giving a free hand with no ceiling to the private companies as well as private entities i.e. the private trusts and expensive profit making educational and health institutions. The intention is to benefit private interests in the name of public interest.
The 2013 Act which replaced the British Act on Land Acquisition, for the first time brought in the process of assessing Social Impact (SIA) along with environmental (EIA) in consultation with the affected people and the Gram Sabhas as well as appropriate urban units. As a precondition for the proper planning of rehabilitation including identifying, and listing of the affected population, the impact on their livelihood, culture, and an appropriate plan to compensate, this was a must if justice is to be done to those who are made to sacrifice in the name of development. Assessing options and seeking suggestions for alternatives to minimize impact and displacement would go a long way. The consent of land losers was also an important clause at least for private and PPP projects (The 2013 Act too left out government projects, unjustifiably) to respect and give our farmers due role, space and primacy in development planning as against ‘no level playing field’ situation between the monetary capitalists (the corporates) and the natural resource investors (farmers and others).
BJP’s Half Truths and Propaganda
The BJP leaders are now making false interpretations and unjustifiable arguments to accusing the people’s movements and pro people politicians and parties as indicated from the press conference held by Nitin Gadkari and statement by Arun Jaitley, the finance minister before the parliament, both of them the architects of the Ordinance and now the Bill. Without entering into dialogue with the agitating farmers’ organizations except members of their own ‘Parivar’, they are deliberately confusing the issues and presenting the struggle as a war between Bharat and Pakistan, drawing a false threat to India’s security.
“If the SIA process is carried out and consent is sought, taking some time for the same, Pakistan will come to know about the project and can sabotage it,” said Mr. Jaitley. This is a statement, an indicator of the frustration and fury among the ruling party led by the Prime Minister that wishes to save the Bill by misbriefing the people. How can seeking consent for a project developed by a private corporation, since government is allowing PPP and FDI in Defence as well, be threat to the national security but the private corporations involvement is not. Does that make any sense ?
The people’s movements, instrumental in getting the former UPA government to abolish the British Act of 1894 and to bring in the 2013 Act condemn this fake, communal appeal to disrespect the farmers and deny them the right to be partners in development. SIA and consent will not stop the projects but rather resolve the conflicts due to imposition of projects without rehabilitation.
The private and PPP projects have been grabbing land through forcible acquisition standing on the shoulders of the State. The SEZ of Ambani was to get 35000 hectares in Maharashtra, and DMIC is targeting 3,90,000 hectares. While the thousands of hectares of Sardar Sarovar command area land in Gujarat is diverted to companies, along with waters, Industrial Corridors to mining, tourism, water and power projects profiting companies are now proposed to be granted land that can be forcibly acquired from farmers. The 1894 British Act too was not permitted to be used for this, and no other country in the world has any such legal and legitimate way to forcibly transfer the farmers’, fishworkers’, and common peoples’ resources.
Mr. Gadkari is claiming the credit for including 13 acts under the purview of the 2013 Act but this is done after killing the spirit and main provisions in the Act.
Mr. Gadkari and BJP spokespersons have also resorted to a farcical justification for the ordinance, referring to 31.12.2014 as the deadline, for including the acts.
The fact is that Section 105 allowed 1 year to bring in these 13 acts so as to allow amendments in those and make land acquisition procedures and provisions therein, consistent with the new Act. Section 105 also elaborates the procedure of placing any amendment, notification before the parliament for 30 days, seeking approval. Instead of doing the same, the BJP government waited till the last day to include the Acts, only after excluding the main pro-people provisions.
The farmers in dam areas like Tata’s, Gosikhurd, Waang Marathwadi, Narmada or in industrial areas in Nandigram, POSCO or hill city project like Lavasa have experienced that the wasteland and previously acquired but unused land is ignored and more land, even irrigated, multiple crop land is forcibly acquired for non agricultural purposes. There is not less than 100,000 hectares of MIDC land, acquired for industries but left unutilized. The land acquired for Varasgaon Dam, 141 hectares were leased out for bungalows once Lavasa City came up, engulfing the dam itself!
The 2013 Act for the first time, brought in a restraint by suggesting a certain percentage to be decided by the state as a limit for acquiring multiple crop land in a district and a state. The movements believed no agricultural land should be acquired as today’s single crop land becomes multiple crop land tomorrow. But BJP doesn’t wish to put any limit to grabbing and destroying even prime agricultural land by changing the 2013 provision for the same.
The Penalty Clause (Section 87) in the 2013 Act is also changed to meet the heads of the departments sanctioning authorities as against holding them responsible for the violations by erring officials! The common persons cannot file a case (FIR) against the violators without a sanction, as per the Bill, 2015.
All this proves that the strong opposition to the Ordinance and the Bill 2015 by many an opposition parties and some of the NDA partners like Shiv Sena and LJP, is fully justifiable. We appreciate their taking a position in favor of the farming community in the country at this crucial juncture. Consideration including food security and no rehabilitation is possible without guaranteeing alternative livelihood (missing in the 2013 Act itself) has now led all those who support our food growers and toiling masses including small traders, artisans, to challenge the anti-people move, the Bill, 2013 which will lead to more suicides and make millions landless laborers.
We instead demand further pro-people amendments as recommended by the two Parliamentary Standing Committees in the 2013 Act to save farmers’ lives and livelihoods of millions.
Medha Patkar – Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); Prafulla Samantara – Lok Shakti Abhiyan & Lingraj Azad – Samajwadi Jan Parishad – Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, NAPM, Odisha; Dr. Sunilam, Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti & Meera – Narmada Bachao Andolan, NAPM, MP; Suniti SR, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe – NAPM, Maharashtra; Gabriele Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN; C R Neelkandan – NAPM Kerala; P Chennaiah & Ramakrishnan Raju – NAPM Andhra Pradesh, Arundhati Dhuru, Richa Singh – NAPM, UP; Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union & Rukmini V P, Garment Labour Union, NAPM, Karnataka; Vimal Bhai – Matu Jan sangathan & Jabar Singh, NAPM, Uttarakhand; Anand Mazgaonkar, Krishnakant – Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat; Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan – Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan & Mahendra Yadav – Kosi Navnirman Manch, NAPM Bihar; Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar, NAPM Haryana; Kailash Meena, NAPM Rajasthan; Amitava Mitra & Sujato Bhadra, NAPM West Bengal; B S Rawat – Jan Sangharsh Vahini & Rajendra Ravi, Madhuresh Kumar and Kanika Sharma – NAPM, Delhi
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