New Land Bill will Further Intensify Conflicts
New Delhi, October 17 : Draft Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill (retitled as Right To Fair Compensation And Transparency In Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012) is touted by UPA government as a remedy for infusing animal spirit in economy, satisfying investor’s sentiment and addressing the ongoing land conflicts. However, the current draft of the Bill which has been accepted by the Group of Minister’s is a retrograde step will only facilitate the transfer of precious natural resources to the private corporations and facilitate further corruption and fuel land conflicts.
Historic Failure to Learn from Past
65 years of developmental process in the country has thrown up enough experience – starting from a mixed economy to current crony capitalist model – even then the Bill has not taken in account any of those lessons. Failure of resettlement and rehabilitation in Bhakra dam and many other projects to withdrawal of World Bank from Sardar Sarovar citing environmental violations and complete lack of R&R or death of farmers in Nandigram, Kalinganagar and other places should have given enough reason for the government to give up the whole framework of acquisition of land using the ’eminent domain’ principle. It is extremely unfortunate that putting aside every possible democratic precedent and institutions, progressive pronouncements of the Supreme Court, UPA government ruling in the name of aam aadmi is bringing a law to legitimise forcible acquisition by the government for private and PPP projects in the name of development and 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.
The Bill will be placed before the Cabinet but we would like to express our opposition to such a legislation which is going to deprive the nature resource based communities of their livelihood and fails to accommodate key recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee comprising of members from different political parties.
Acquisition for Private Corporations and PPP Projects
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.
Consent of Gram / Basti Sabha
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.
Retrospective Application of the Bill
The new formulation says that the Bill shall apply prospectively only, i.e., for new acquisitions only, and not retrospectively. Earlier the Bill was to apply retrospectively, 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. UPA 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.
Role of Ministry of Rural Development and Other Ministries
Ministry of Rural Development recently signed an agreement with Ekta Parishad and talked about formulating a policy for ensuring homestead titles for landless, we wonder how serious they are, given the Bill which has just been agreed. The Bill in current form will take away the land rights or titles given to anyone either under the Forest Rights Act or by the proposed new legislation. Let the message be clear that no matter what the Cabinet decides but ultimately the Bill has to be passed through the Parliament where we hope the will of people will prevail and not of market. We will continue to struggle against such draconian laws and pose stiff resistance to loot of precious natural resources and strive for land rights.
Finally, we would also urge that Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Tribal Affairs, Environment and Forests and Urban Housing who are mandated to look after the interests of the marginal communities must assert themselves and protect their rights or else what is the point of having such ministries, when their rights are being trampled in the interest of business and commerce ?
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, Madhuresh Kumar.