Several people’s groups, including National Alliance of People’s Movements, Indian Community Activist Network, Sarvahara Jan Andolan, Jan Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti, Mines, Minerals & People, and Delhi Solidarity Group gathered in Delhi for a two-day convention on “corridorization” of India, and worked out a common strategy against what they called “corporate loot”. An account of the meeting:
“Overnight, the government declares that the home and fields of an adivasi or a farmer is now part of an industrial corridor. Even after days and months no one comes to visit her home or village and she is left to wonder who are these people deciding her fate, without ever seeking her consent.” This is the experience of so many people now living within the influence zone of the Delhi Mumbai or Amritsar Kolkata Industrial Corridors, said Medha Patkar of Narmada Bachao Andolan and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM). She asked, how can the fate of people in this country be decided without ever consulting them in the name of larger public good? The planning of the growing web of industrial corridors in the country today is an undemocratic ploy to take away the sovereign rights of the people and its public institutions.
Ulka Mahajan, leader of Sarvhara Jan Andolan, Raigad, said, even though notifications for acquisition of 67000 Acres of land from 78 villages were issued for the development of the Dighi Industrial Port area, still no one had a project plan in hand to share with the communities. There was completely opaqueness over the projects proposed, invetments or industries expected, still the notifications were issued. The fact remains, the ploy is to loot the land and displace a huge population without any thought given to the real issues. The reality is the DMIC or any such projects being planned are one big real estate project. Even planners have no idea but they want the land, water, forests and everything for themselves.
It is the financialisation of economy in favour of big corporations that is being facilitated by the government with active help from the governments of Japan, Singapore, Hongkong, UK, Germany, US or other developed countries who are exploring the possibilities for expansion of their own corporations, said, Anil Chaudhary of Jan Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti.
They were speaking at the two-day national convention on growing web of industrial corridors in the country and the huge socio-economic and political fallouts of these projects. The convention was joined by the activists and experts from 15 states who are engaged in struggle or study of the corridors for more than five years now. The Convention was jointly organized by NAPM, Indian Community Activist Network (ICAN), Sarvahara Jan Andolan, Jan Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti, Delhi Solidarity Group and others.
Sagar Rabari of Gujarat Khedut Mazdoor Samaj said we have forged alliances with all caste groups and cut across the traditional boundaries of the trade unions and farmers to oppose the corporate loot of the natural resources in name of development, and we have had successes in challenging the Dholera SIR or Mandala Bechara SIR or other projects. Since, they are completely undemocratic, anti people and a real estate project which will destroy the livelihoods of the people, without offering them anything in return. Contrary to the image that land acquisition in Gujarat is easy, we would say that it is one of the most difficult places to acquire land in the country. Likewise, as against the claims of creation of jobs, Gujarat, despite numerous SEZs in the past decade has created the fewest jobs, this exposing the fact that as against displacement of lakhs of people, the jobs created are very, very few.
Experiences of the state governments changing land laws, labour laws, environmental laws were shared by the activists and how they were in complete violations of the central laws and constitutionally untenable, most of which needs to be challenged in the courts.
The development of the corridors, as of now five, including the Vizag – Chennai, Chennai – Bangalore and Mumbai Bangalore Corridor together have an influence area covering 50% of the land area. Together with the Sagarmala, Bharat Mala projects, the Industrial Corridors are a massive infrastructure plan. But does our country have the natural resources to support this massive development plan, and have we conducted an comprehensive social and environmental impact assessment? Have we even looked at the fact that what will happen to the millions of people dependent on the natural resources, farmers, adivasis, fishworkers, artisans, pastoralists? The answer we get is no!
These questions along with the accountability of our own elected governments were also discussed. The experience shared by activists from DMIC and AKIC was that even Mukhiyas, Sarpanchs, MLAs and to an extent MPs also don’t know about these projects. These projects and plans are being prepared by the Consultants and to be implemented by Special Purpose Vehicles and Specially appointed authorities which are completely anti democratic bodies with over-riding powers over the power of Gram Sabha, Gram Panchayat or Municipalities and Municipal Coporations. The complete governance structure is being privatized at the moment, in the name of development.
- We demand that let there be a parliamentary oversight over the loan agreements signed by the government with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other financial institutions.
- Voluntarily all the agreements, projects, plans, feasibility studies and every document related to the Corridors must be put in front of the public voluntarily, as per Section 4 of the RTI Act.
- We demand that the Parliamentary Standing Committee studying the Industrial corridor Policy framework must meet and respond to the groups who have approached for a personal hearing. In addition, they must go out and meet the areas demarcated as being part of the Industrial Corridors.
- We also demand that the anti democratic and completely unconstitutional changes to the labour and land laws brought in by the Rajasthan and Gujarat government be withdrawn and President must not give assent to those.
The meeting ended with the formation of a nationwide committee which will undertake the work of reaching out to other groups, conduct researches, workshops, plan actions and inform a wider population about these projects and the impacts it might have. In the next five months, a wide campaigning will be done across the nation under the banner of “Corridor Virodhi Sangharsh Abhiyaan” and will decide about the national platform in the month of October this year. Towards the end of the year a nation-wide yatra would be undertaken and this would be preceded by a series of the regional meetings.