Ministry of Rural Development Further Dilutes the Provisions of the Land Bill to Placate ‘Fictitious’ Investor Sentiments
NAPM Opposes Such Moves and Urges to Pay Heed to Needs of ‘Real’ Investors, who Own Land, Water, Forest, Minerals and Labour
New Delhi, September 26 : It is extremely unfortunate to note that the draft Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill (retitled asRight To Fair Compensation And Transparency In Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012) brought by Ministry of Rural Development, which was already seeking to legitimise forcible acquisition by the government for private and PPP projects has further diluted it to placate the investors and their representatives in the Ministry of Trade & Commerce, Finance, Urban Development, Planning Commission and other Ministries.
It is no wonder and seems to be only expected from a government which is being run on the life support given by the private corporations and on their money, especially after completely anti-people decisions in form of allowing FDI in retail and aviation, hike in diesel prices and electricity tariff, disinvestment of public sector units and other related measures.
Even as Group of Ministers meet tomorrow we would like to reiterate our opposition to any such move by the UPA government to enact a legislation which is going to deprive the natural resource based communities of their livelihood and fails to accommodate key recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee comprising of members from different political parties. PSC very clearly has said that no acquisition should be allowed for the private and PPP projects, since they are nothing but a loot of natural resources. The unfolding corruption cases involving auction of coal blocks and spectrum, irrigation scam and others, all testify to greed and illegality in private and PPP projects. It is time for shunning the eminent domain framework of the state rather than expanding it to be a tool in service of private capital. It will be a move for the worse and fundamentally damage the socialist and egalitarian fabric of the constitution, as propounded in the directive principles of state policy or mandated in the Article 243.
NAPM along with many other movement groups under the banner of Sangharsh have been demanding free prior informed consent of the Gram / Basti Sabha for deciding nature of public purpose, to approval of the project and their participation in R&R and various steps of project implementation. Unfortunately under the pressure from industry and their lobbyists even a 80 percent consent clause of the project affected people is now being reduced to the two third of the land losers alone. Similarly, small benefits like a house plot to those displaced are being taken away by increasing the time of residence from three years to five years prior to displacement. Inspite of numerous deliberations with the Ministry, displacement in urban centres seems to be no where on radar, a separate legislation on the urban evictions and displacement is the only way out now.
Ministry of Rural Development in its bid to placate Ministers opposed to its proposal says that the “Bill shall apply prospectively only, i.e., for new acquisitions only, and not retrospectively. Earlier the Bill was to applyretrospectively, i.e., to ongoing land acquisitions where Award had not been made or possession not taken”. This is nothing but further dilution, since we have been saying that nearly 10 Crore people have been affected by various ‘development’ projects since independence with a very low rate of R&R, nearly 17-20 percent. A new legislation should move forward in addressing the historical injustice committed on the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe who constitute the majority of PFAs by setting up a National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Commission to address their claims of R&R rather than feeling proud in denying their share in development of the nation. It is shameful and nothing else !
A concerted effort is being made by the UPA to say that they are trying to protect the interests of the farmers and communities dependent on the land but unfortunately none of the actions by the government seem to demonstrate that. No wonder if approval to such a Bill by the group of Ministers will only add to discrediting the government, since it seems to be ruling for the interests of the private and multinational corporations alone and not for the people who voted it to power.
The Bill if accepted in current form will not only increase the conflicts surrounding the land across the country as being witnessed around the various infrastructure projects but will prove fatal for it in the next general elections. Group of Ministers must heed to the voices of the people, real investors’ and not to the investors holding fictitious wealth. People and communities are real investors, who hold control of land, water, forest, minerals and most important their labour. Lastly, Ministry of Rural Development must not bow to the pressure of the industry lobby and rather pay heed to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Tribal Affairs and Urban Housing who are mandated to look after the interests of the marginal communities.
Medha Patkar, Dr. Sunilam, Prafulla Samantara, Roma, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Vimal Bhai, Suniti S R, Bhupinder Singh Rawat, Dr. Rupesh Verma, Advocate Aradhana Bhargava, Rajendra Ravi, Shrikanth, Madhuresh Kumar