WE WANT DEVELOPMENT NOT DESTRUCTION
Dharna at Jantar Mantar unites farmers, agricultural workers and tribals from across India.
The 2nd day of the National Convention on Land Acquisition, Development and Displacement saw hundreds of farmers, agricultural and industrial workers and adivasis’ putting up a united and collective front to protest against indiscriminate land acquisition, displacement and the spate of unjust rehabilitation in the country.
Organized as part of a 4-day National Convention against Land Acquisition, Development and Displacement here in the Capital, the gathering saw people from the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Orissa. They were also joined by prominent leaders of peoples’ movements like Medha Patkar from Narmada Bachao Andolan, Gautam Bandopadhyay from Nadi Ghati Morcha (Chhattisgarh), Sandhya from Adivasi Mahila Mahasangh (Orissa), Rupam Chowdhary from Paschim Bangla Buddhi Jibi Manch (West Bengal), Amita from Singur Krushi Zameen Bachao Samiti, Sister Celia from Domestic Workers Union and NAPM, Karnataka, Kavita Krishnan from CPI (ML-Liberation) and Bhupinder Singh Rawat from Jan Sangharsh Vahini, among other supporters from the various associated organizations and solidarity groups within Delhi.
Kamlu Yadav from the Narmada Bachao Andolan emphasized that the provisions in these two Bills will only lead to further displacement and will not ensure any rehabilitation to those who will be displaced by the dams, industries, power plants and SEZs in the country.
B D Sharma, former SC ST Commissioner said that these Bills are contradictory to the provisions already available in PESA Act which protects SCs and STs from any take over of the land without consultation with the Gram Sabha. Gram Sabha should be consulted all across the country in villages before any development projects are implemented.
Medha Patkar questioned the very notion of public purpose or ‘development’ that is always evoked by the Government. “Who is this development for? The poor adivasi, landless worker, small farmer or rich industrialists who make millions on the land of the million, while the poor are displaced, dispossessed and pushed into further penury”. She also criticized the Government for not implementing the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, instituted by the Ministry of Rural Development on the Land Acquisition (Amendment) and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill, 2009. This she said constituted the biggest failure of the leaders in acknowledging the painful process of scrutiny that institutions like these undertake in reaching its conclusions and recommendations. She lauded some of the progressive provisions like mandatory Social Impact Assessments in the Bills but also pointed out that the definition of the Public Purpose was much better in the Principle Act of 1894 which is now being amended to serve the interests of private corporations whose sole motive is profit. She demanded that these Bills in current form must not be passed in the Parliament.
Tarun Mandal, MP from West Bengal also attended the dharna and extended his solidarity and support to the cause. As was done in the 14th Lok Sabha session, he resolved to oppose the LAA and R&R Bills in the Parliament along with their political supporter, Trinamool Congress.
A delegation from Sangharsh, a group of over 150 social and peoples’ movements, also met the Rural Development Minister, C.P. Joshi late in the evening yesterday, who insisted that the Bills have been passed by Cabinet, even though its widely known that Trinamool Congress has opposed the Bills inside the Cabinet and outside it. After a long meeting he said he will convey the delegations feelings and views to their Leader.
The dharna will continue in the coming days in Delhi and also the deliberations at the public meeting hinted at bitter hard fought struggle across the country. The successes in Singur, Nandigram and Raigadh were celebrated and declared as another step in the peoples’ resolve to fight unlawful displacement and acquisition of their land.
The demands of the people from the dharna are that the UPA Government must:
1. NOT pass the proposed Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill in their current form in the Parliament. UPA attempted this towards the end of the 14th Lok Sabha and also on the last day of the Monsoon Session in extremely secretive manner without any debate and adequate prior information.
2. ENACT a National Development, Displacement and Rehabilitation Act based on the Draft National Development, Displacement, and Rehabilitation Policy passed by the National Advisory council in 2006 and incorporating the progressive elements of the Standing Committee on Rural Development (2007-08) enunciating the principle of least displacement, just rehabilitation and a decentralized development planning based on Article 243 of the Constitution, PESA 1996 and Forest Rights Act, 2006.
3. ISSUE a White Paper on all the land acquisitions, displacement caused and rehabilitation completed since independence. The White Paper must also make public the extent of land utilized, unutilized and land acquired for public purpose but remains occupied by sick and non-functional industries and other infrastructure projects.
4. MAKE PUBLIC the details of the MoUs signed by the Government of India and the state Governments with different private and public corporations, companies and others, which have land acquisition requirements and hold public dialogue – especially with affected people.
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