NEW DELHI, May 10, 2011
Social activist Medha Patkar on Monday expressed her support for the farmers’ agitation against land acquisition in Uttar Pradesh, saying that the serving of “private purposes in the name of public purpose” was the trigger for the unrest.
Indicating that she would join the movement in Noida, Ms. Patkar said the agitating farmers must be called for dialogue that should be decisive. “Till then, there should be a moratorium on the construction of the Yamuna Expressway,” she said.
The farmers are demanding not just enhanced compensation for the land taken to construct the 165-km Yamuna Expressway between New Delhi and Agra, but also a share in the adjoining developed area.
“Land acquisition has become a critical issue. It has become a move to serve private purposes by diverting agricultural land for industrial purposes. The rights of rural people are sacrificed in the name of development, and every time there is state repression, farmers agitate as there is no channel for redressal of their grievances,” Ms. Patkar said while addressing a press conference here with farmers of Kanjhawala in the National Capital Region of Delhi.
“Repeal the Act”
Asserting that amendment of the Land Acquisition Act was not a “magical solution” to the problem, she favoured repeal of the archaic Act.
“The farmers of Noida, Aligarh, Nandigram, Jagatsinhpur and the Narmada Valley have all raised questions regarding the purpose which indicates private interest when politicians too behave like profiteers. The time has come not for amending the Land Acquisition Act but to repeal it. Local communities [gram sabhas] should get primacy for planning development,” she said.
“This is yet another challenge for the UPA government. If people can protest against corruption, they can also raise their voice against looting of natural resources,” she added.
Ms. Patkar said the government must halt forcible acquisition of land and eviction of people from land, water, forests, rivers and seashores or for aquatic wealth and minerals.