Counterview,28 June 2014: Around 30 mass organizations, attached with the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), have strongly protested against the Government of India (GoI) move to bring about changes in the new land acquisition Act, saying any move in that direction will be met with “stiff resistance.” Asking the GoI to ensure its “strict implementation”, the NAPM, which is led by Narmada Bachao Andolan’s (NBA’s) Medha Patkar, said, “The news that two of the key provisions of the Act, consent and social impact assessment (SIA), are to be amended is completely unacceptable.”
“It may well be recalled that the new Act was framed in the wake of protests across the nation at places like Nandigram, Singur, Kalinganagar, Kakrapalli, and Bhatta Parsaul, where many people died”, the statement said, even as recalling anti-special economic zone (SEZ) protests in Raigarh, Jhajhar and other places for repeal of old land acquisition law, which was a “colonial remnant.” It added, the new Act was passed as a mark of “people’s participation”, with strong provisions related with “livelihood-based resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R).”
“Provisions of consent and SIA were introduced to do away with the anomalies in the colonial Act, since farmers and those dependent on the land would never be consulted or made participants in the process of development planning”, the NAPM said, adding, “Huge tracts of fertile land used to be acquired at throw away prices and given to private and public corporations in the name of public purpose and industrialization. Stiff opposition to this type of land grab led to cancellation of numerous SEZs and other projects.”
The NAPM insisted, “The Ministry of Rural Development should work on implementing the Act by drafting rules for its implementation and get states to do the same. It is shocking that most of the states are demanding an amendment, and have not bothered to frame rules for the new Act.” As of now, Karnataka and Maharashtra are the only two states that have framed draft rules for new Act.
Saying that it will be “a retrograde step if we go to back to the colonial process of forced land acquisition”, the NAPM insisted, “If any amendment has to be made to the Act, it needs to be made more stringent.”
If it all, the NAPM said, changes should be made to strengthen the provisions related with “consent for the public purpose projects” by making it mandatory for “government projects too.” Then, the definition of public purpose should be clarified, as infrastructure “does not equal development”. “We have seen how Reliance has been creating infrastructure for nation — it works for profit alone and in the process loots the citizens and arm-twists the government, prime example being Delhi and Mumbai Metro and KG Basin Gas projects”, NAPM said.
Then, SIA should be mandatory “for irrigation projects as well, given the huge displacement in the case of the Sardar Sarovar dam, where the sword of displacement is hanging on 2.5 lakh people even after three decades”, the NAPM said, adding, “There is also an urgent need to 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.”
Apart from NBA others who signed the statement included Odisha’s Lok Shakti Abhiyan and Niyamgiri Suraksha Parishad, Madhya Pradesh’s Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Chhattisgarh’s Nadi Ghati Morcha, Tamil Nadu’s Uorganised Sector Workers Federation, Delhi’s Jan Sangharsh Vahini,Uttar Pradesh’s Upbhokta Samiti, Uttarakhand’s Matu Jan Sangathan, Jharkhand’s Ghatwar Adivasi Mahasabha, Gujarat’s Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, Bihar’s Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, and NAPM branches of large number of states.