Local tribals, farmers, fisherfolk and other sections are up in arms against the proposed DMIC

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Several civil rights organizations of Gujarat and Maharashtra, including Khedut Samaj Gujarat, mines, minerals & People, Adivasi Ekta Parishad, Bhoomi Sena and Kashtkari Samgathan, took out a huge rally in Talasari in Maharashtra on August 9, which also happens to be the World Indigenous People’s day. Memorandum sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the end of the rally:

We, the farmers, tribals, fisherfolks, labourers and citizens men and women of Gujarat and Maharashtra have gathered here today at Talasari (Maharashtra) under the common banner of ‘Bhoomi Putra Bachao Andolan’, on the occasion of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples and Kranti Divas, to highlight our fears and apprehensions on account of the proposed and planned Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC).

As you are aware, the DMIC is a multi-state mega-undertaking, covering the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, with a length of 1,483 kms. and an influence region covering 4,36,486 sq kms. You will appreciate that a project of this magnitude, which aims at setting up 6 lane dedicated freight corridor, 150 km either side industrial corridor comprising industries and industrial regions of minimum 200 sq km, investment regions of minimum 100 sq. km, will inevitably mean diverting land, forests, coast, water and other attendant infrastructural amenities like electricity and roads for industrial purpose and away from the already established occupations like agriculture, fishery, forest-related occupations. The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor is a policy in the name of economic development that was never discussed in the Parliament. And as is, it is not a well thought or planned policy which has considered the various facets of such a gigantic proposal.

The stretch from Mumbai to Delhi which is proposed to be developed under the DMIC is already one of the most heavily industrialised and urbanized part of India. It is also to be noted that the influence area proposed under the DMIC also covers about 17% population of the country i.e. approx. 21.5 crs of which about 8 crs is work force.

It is our humble submission that the DMIC and its related projects though have short term benefits for big corporate houses, is utterly anti-people, anti-nature and it violates the constitutional in letter and spirit.

The stretch passing through Gujarat (influence area 62%), Maharashtra (influence area 18%) and Dadra & Nagar Haveli (DNH) have lush green forests on the east and the Indian Ocean on west. In this narrow stretch are proposed several projects like, Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC), High Speed Railway (Bullet Train), Vadodara – Mumbai Expressway, etc. The proposed area is one of the very well connected corridor of India with National Highway – 8, Mumbai – Ahmedabad Railway line (proposed to be upgraded to 4 lines), Coastal Highway, Eastern Tribal Highway and a maze of road network.

Also there are proposal for several port projects like Vadhvan, Nargol, Dahej, etc. Apart from the existing industrial areas heavy industrialisation is being proposed to provide freight traffic to the DFC and Expressway.

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While all these projects are being proposed, the cumulative effect of multiple projects in close proximity to one another will result in the physical, social and cultural upheaval of communities that live in relative symbiosis with nature.  To understand the extent of destruction and upheaval, it is necessary to view the multiple proposed projects not as individual separate projects, but as a composite whole.

The process of land acquisition has begun for some of these Projects.  The “consultative” provisions under the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act are being reduced to a farce, as the resolutions opposing the Projects that have been passed by the Gram Sabhas are being over-ruled by the authorities in a blanket manner. Survey work, which is part and parcel of the project itself, is being undertaken clandestinely without even informing the Gram Sabhas.  In most places, police force is being deployed for the same.

The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution provides for Special provisions for the administration of the Scheduled Areas.  The Panchayats Extension to the Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act empowers the Gram Sabha to safeguard and protect the natural resources within its jurisdiction.  The underlying principle in the “consultative” powers under PESA, is that the issues raised by the Gram Sabha will be duly considered on merit by the authorities. The blanket over-ruling of the resolutions of the Gram Sabhas, reducing consultation to mere lip-service, defeats the very intention of the legislature. Various Judgements of the Courts have upheld the special right of the adivasis to land in the Scheduled Areas. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, (as amended in 2014), hereinafter LARR, has special provisions with respect to the Scheduled Areas,  viz.  that land in the Scheduled Area is to be acquired only under exceptional circumstances and in no case without the consent of the Gram Sabha (see Sec 41 of the LARR).

The local tribals and farmers and other citizens are therefore up in-arms against the proposed Projects.  Gram Sabhas have passed resolutions opposing the projects. To register their disagreement many protest meetings and demonstrations have taken place.  But the government seems hell-bent upon implementing the Projects.   We therefore seek your intervention to safeguard the lives and livelihood of the Scheduled Tribes and people living in these areas.

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The government has been trying to enforce this projects by creation of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) and anti-constitutional acts like the SIR Act. The SPVs although have government officers as their office bearers, is neither transparent nor answerable to public.

The proposed stretch of DMIC passing through Maharashtra and Gujarat, including other states is already a water stressed area, due to heavy industrialization and dense urbanization. The available water resources are critically exploited (click HERE) and additionally there are projects underway to transport the water from these areas to other parts of Gujarat and Maharashtra (Naar – Paar – TAPI – Narmada river linking project, Small and Medium dams like Surya, etc). How more water will be produced for rising population and heavy industrialization? As the then chief minister of Gujarat, you are well aware that even at present, irrigation water is diverted to industries and areas under irrigation are being de-commanded. In such scenario, where future need of water, food security and fresh air (environment) is not planned, can we call it planning or development?

The adhoc and piecemeal approach to development being pushed on behest of  vested interests will only end-up into disaster and resources grab, as has been a case with the SEZ policy which ultimately turned out to be a land grab policy as revealed in the CAG audit (click HERE). Considering the advancement of technology the requirement of land for industry has to reduce proportionately, but DMIC proposes huge land acquisition which is contradictory to technological development.

The unpredictable changes occurring to the climate also requires accounting them. As that may have serious implications on the future availability of water and land especially in the coastal areas. The Paris Conference on Climate Change has brought out the ensuing dangers and rightly Indian government has committed itself to the fight against climate change.

Destruction of forests and green areas including orchard, does not help the cause of climate change in any way. The proposed development would also require enormous amount of construction and land filling materials, thereby pushing demand for sand and stone mining which is carried out in riverbeds and hilly areas respectively. These activities will adversely impact the tribal population dependent on forests and the fishing community and also the availability of fresh water.

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In our opinion, it would be much more desirable if the government were to put the same amount of resources to improve the quality of the traditional occupations of agriculture, fishery and forestry (as advised by the World Bank study) and to augment the quality of the natural resources so that the present level of employment is maintained and its future growth is also taken care of.

The affected areas also attract migrant labor and hence the areas are potentially providing economic activities and livelihood to the local as well as migrant population. Any disturbance to the economic balance here would lead to large scale unemployment. And it is a well known fact that automation industries have failed to provide employment at the scale expected, rather it is a job-killing growth. The World Bank study on automation indicates that 69% job will be lost due to automation (click HERE).

We would also like to inform the government that; till this project of destruction of our life and livelihood is not scrapped, will use all the peaceful, non-violent means to oppose on ground, will take judicial route, and approach the investing agencies to put correct facts before them so they can take informed decision.

We urge that,

  1. Undertake a comprehensive and composite participatory review of the multiple projects.
  2. A committee be setup to look into the cumulative impacts of the proposed DMIC and it be discussed in the parliament and respective state assembly before any further investment or implementation.
  3. No further work on the proposed and ongoing Projects be undertaken till such a review is completed.

Hope, we shall not be forced to fight to get justice. Expecting positive response from your level.

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