Facilitation to Humane and participatory Land Acquisition is Not Accepted
Protect Land Rights, Promote Land Reforms, Ensure Justice to Already Displaced
No Acquisition for Profiteering is Welcome but National Development Planning, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act is the Need of the Hour
New Delhi, May 17 : The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development today tabled its report to the Parliament on the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011. The report makes some positive recommendations as put forward by Sangharsh – a coalition of NAPM, NFFPFW and other movements who deposed before the Committee but it falls short of fulfilling the overall aspirations of the people protesting against the brazen land acquisitions and those struggling for adequate resettlement and rehabilitation for many years.
We had demanded that the Bill be titled as National Development Planning, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act and the whole framework of the land acquisition should change. It should be based on the people’s right to land and resources, and thereby the right to approve or disapprove a development project / plan by Gram Sabha (in rural areas) and Basti Sabha (in urban areas) and on the principle of ‘ Free Prior Informed Consent’. Even though the Committee recommendations don’t fully comply with this demand there is a significant recognition of the role of the Panchayati Raj Insitutions at every level. We welcome the emphasis of the Committee on the “consent” as opposed to proposed farcical “consultations” with these bodies in the proposed Bill. The suggested Model Activity Map relating to the devolution of LARR powers to the three levels of Panchayats in rural areas and municipalities in urban areas for consideration by the State Assemblies under Articles 243G and 243W, as well as suggest statutory powers for the empowerment by State legislatures of ‘local institutions of self-government’ and, most importantly, Gram Sabhas in rural areas and equivalent bodies in urban areas is a step in the right direction.
The questioning of the power of the eminent domain of the state by the Committee and taking strong exception to the fact that if land acquisition for profiteering is not done anywhere else in the world then why should India do it is an important recognition of our demands? In recommending deletion of the clauses for private acquisition, it has vindicated our stand that the core public functions of the state can’t be handed over to the private corporations, even though the Ministry of Rural Development and many state governments argued that “the distinction between private and the Government sector is blurring in the Country as we proceed on the path of development. So, putting conditions of minimum share of the Government in the projects or ownership of the projects may delay such developmental activities.”
It is unfortunate that in the name of the PPP, the loot of the scarce natural resources and public property is handed over to the corporations for the sole motive of profit. This has to stop. We hope the Ministry of Rural Development will take note of this important recommendation. However, we still feel that adequate safeguard to private purchase of land is necessary and state can’t leave vulnerable communities to negotiate with the land sharks, middle men, and big forces of capital. Unregulated land market will facilitate large scale unemployment and a bigger attack on the agrarian economy.
At various points the Committee in its recommendations have proposed removal of ambiguities and unnecessary discretionary powers with the governments and executive. The deletion of clause 98, which recommended keeping out of the purview of this Bill nearly 95% of the total land acquisitions under 16 Central acts is a welcome sign and amendments to the Bill by notification is certainly not acceptable, in a functioning parliamentary democracy. The recommendation by the Committee that all cases of land acquisition must entail obligations for adequate compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement to all land losers and other affected persons and removing arbitrary numerical limits for application of R&R provisions and SIA is in line with our demand.
An expanded definition of the food security; no acquisition of any land under agriculture cultivation; an all comprehensive definition of affected families; inclusion of zones of influence within the ambit of the Social Impact Assessment and return of unutilised land to land owners are some other important recommendations by the Committee. Even though the Committee recognizes that nearly 58% of the population depends on the agriculture and related sector but fails to recommend protection of their livelihood since many of the governments and departments very categorically said that they can’t provide for the job or land for the land, so cash compensation will get a push and the livelihood of the millions of the dalits, adivasis and marginal farmers will be adversely affected.
It is unfortunate though that the Committee even though recognised the extent of displacement in the country and near absence of resettlement and rehabilitation in post independence era, failed to provide any relief to the millions of victims on the altar of development. We had proposed setting up of a National Resettlement and rehabilitation Commission, which would have ensured retrospective application of the provisions of R&R and also settled the claims of the project affected people. The Committee though recommends involvement of the affected communities in determining the amount of compensation and other R&R entitlements through various committees, it fails recommend measures to protect the land rights of the people and facilitate the agenda of the land reforms in the country.
The recommendations within the ambit of the proposed framework intends to make the acquisitions more participatory for public purpose and provide for R&R measures however falls short of addressing the key demands arising out of the ongoing struggles against big dams in the Narmada and other river Valleys, Thermal power Plants in Andhra, Orissa and other States, Big infrastructure projects like POSCO in Orissa and anti nuclear struggles in Koodankulam, Fatehabaad and Jaitapur. The demand of the people’s movements to have a direct say in planning of the projects at its inception itself which originates from the challenge to the overall development paradigm has failed to find recognition in the recommendations. We feel unless the government takes note of this and gives adequate power to the people in development planning and not leave the job to experts and Planning Commission of the Country, the conflicts and protests against illegal acquisitions be it for the private or public corporations will continue.
As demanded by us the Committee didn’t hold regional hearings and conduct site visits, but it did express dissatisfaction at the failure of the Ministry of Rural Development for not holding consultations with the affected families prior to its introduction in the Parliament. We do hope the Ministry of Rural Development will take due notice of the recommendations of the Committee, hold regional consultations with the affected parties and then bring the revised legislation soon in the parliament.
We demand and urge the government to take note of the plight of the nearly six million development induced displaced people who have received no R&R till date and undo the historical injustice and violence unleashed in the name of development by taking appropriate step and setting up of the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Commission. Until and unless they get justice and a complete assessment of the unutilised land with the various state and non-state actors is done and a white paper released on that, till then let there be moratorium on any further acquisitions.
We will continue to struggle for enactment of the National Development Planning, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, which will stop the ongoing conflicts and large scale acquisitions in the name of the public purpose and development and facilitate the agenda of the land rights and agrarian reforms.
Medha Patkar, Prafulla Samantara, Ashok Chowdhury, Dr. Sunilam, Roma, P Chennaiah, Sandeep Pandey, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Ramakrishnan Raju, Rupesh Verma, Anand Mazgaonkar, Vimal Bhai, Rajendra Ravi, Vijayan M J, Madhuresh Kumar
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