Efforts to dilute new land acquisition law will take us back to old colonial ways, with no regard to environment, people

napm
An NAPM rally in Mumbai

The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), apex body of  voluntary organizations fighting against indiscriminate land acquisition in the name of “public purpose”, has protested against the Government of India effort to dilute the new land acquisition Act, which for the first time introduced consent and social impact assessment before any effort acquire land. Reproduced below is NAPM’s statement:

The news that two of the key provisions, consent and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) of the Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, 2013 is to be amended by the NDA government is completely unacceptable to the people’s movements and will face tough opposition across the country. It may well be reminded that the new Act was framed in the wake of protests across the nation at places like Nandigram, Singur, Kalinganagar, Kakrapalli, Bhatta Parsaul, where many people died and years of struggle by Narmada Bachao Andolan, Niyamgiri Suraksha Parishad and Anti SEZ protests in Raigarh, Jhajhar for repeal of the colonial act and enactment of a new development planning act marking people’s participation and provisions for livelihood-based Resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R).

The consent and SIA provision was introduced to do away with the anomalies in the colonial act, since farmers and those dependent on the land were never consulted or made a participant in the process of development planning. Huge tracts of fertile land were acquired at throw away prices and given to private and public corporations in the name of public purpose and industrialization.  The stiff opposition to the land grab has led in past to cancellation of numerous SEZs and other projects and any discussion on the question of land for industrialization has to take in account.

Ministry of Rural Development should work on implementing the new Act by drafting the rules for its implementation and get States to do the same. It is shocking that most of the states demanding an amendment have not even bothered to frame the rules for the new Act. As of now, Karnataka and Maharashtra are the only two states who have framed draft rules for the same; how can they demand an amendment?

It will be a retrograde step if we were to go to back to the colonial process of forced land acquisition and no regard for impact of land acquisition on the people, environment and democratic institutions which need to be consulted and their consent taken in the process of SIA. If any amendment has to be made to the act then it needs to be made more stringent in following terms:

1. Consent for the public purpose projects to should be mandatory for the government projects too.

2. Limited definition of the ‘Public Purpose’. Infrastructure doesn’t equal development. We have seen how Reliance has been creating infrastructure for nation, they work for profit alone and in the process loot the citizens and arm-twist the government, prime example being Delhi and Mumbai Metro and KG Basin Gas projects?

3. Mandatory SIA provisions for the irrigation projects as well, given the huge displacement, in case of Sardar Sarovar dam the sword of displacement is hanging on 2.5 lakh people even after three decades.

4. Urgently establish a National resettlement and Rehabilitation Commission to deal with the grievances of 10 crore people who have sacrificed their land and livelihood in the process of development.

Since, the time NDA government has come to power a slew of changes have been proposed to the existing provisions of environment and forest clearances, as if the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest’s sole job was to clear projects and allow destruction of forests, wildlife, rivers and so on in the name of development. The government seems to be in a hurry but this mandate from people need not be confused as a license to trample upon the rights of the people and tinker with the existing laws which are to protect life, livelihood and environment.

NAPM calls upon progressive forces, people’s movements and political parties to join this fight against corporate loot of the natural resources at the cost of livelihood of the millions. The corporate designs of loot of the natural resources will not be allowed to succeed by the people’s movements and every move will be resisted by the farmers, workers, fisherfolks, forest dwellers, adivasis, urban poor of this country. The NDA government will do itself good to remember that the power of people have forced radical changes and overthrown parties from power in past, the good days will not last forever!

Signatories:

  • Medha Patkar – Narmada Bachao Andolan – National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
  • Prafulla Samantara – Lok Shakti Abhiyan
  • Lingraj Azad – Niyamgiri Suraksha Parishad, NAPM, Odisha
  • Dr. Sunilam, Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, MP
  • Gautam Bandopadhyay – Nadi Ghati Morcha, NAPM, Chhattisgarh
  • Suniti SR, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe – NAPM, Maharashtra
  • Gabriel Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN
  • C R Neelakandan – NAPM Kerala;Saraswati Kavula, P Chennaiah – NAPM Andhra Pradesh
  • B S Rawat – Jan Sangharsh Vahini, Rajendra Ravi, Sunita Rani, Madhuresh Kumar, Seela M – NAPM, Delhi
  • Arundhati Dhuru, Richa Singh, Nandlal Master – NAPM, UP
  • Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union, Maj. Gen (Retd) Sudhir Vombatkere- NAPM, Karnataka
  • Sumit Wanjale – Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao Andolan, NAPM, Mumbai
  • Manish Gupta – Jan Kalyan Upbhokta Samiti, NAPM, UP
  • Vimal Bhai – Matu Jan sangathan, NAPM, Uttarakhand
  • Vilas Bhongade – Gosikhurd Prakalpgrast Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, Maharashtra
  • Ramashray Singh – Ghatwar Adivasi Mahasabha, Jharkhand
  • Anand Mazhgaonkar, Krishnakant – Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat
  • Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan – Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, NAPM Bihar
  • Mahendra Yadav – Kosi Navnirman Manch, NAPM Bihar
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