‘No’ to Land Grabbing
[Following is a statement issued by National Alliance of People’s Movements and its 14 associates before their march to Delhi on February 24, 2015 to protest amendments in Land Acquition Act 2013, and Land Ordinance 2014.]
The constitution is based
on principles of equality, justice,
brotherhood and socialism for all citizens and yet the country's farmers, agricultural labourers and working class people have been suffering from displacement and unemployment for decades. Communities that live off their hard labour and are dependent on nature have from time to time struggled and compelled elected representatives and the country's governments to pass pro-people legislations.
Through the relentless opposition and struggles by the people's movements across the country, the Congress-led UPA government was obligated to change the draconian law of the British-era, the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, and thereafter, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 was brought in. People's movements had demanded the democratic process of mandatory consent from gram sabha, basti sabha, farmers, peasants and fishworkers before land acquisition proceedings; minimum displacement in every project and guaranteed employment to the displaced; no use of cultivated land for non-agricultural purposes, only barren land for industry purposes; use of urgency clause in disaster situations only; complete stop to forcible acquisition of land belonging to farmers and adivasis and its transfer to industrialists in the name of development while actually encouraging brazen loot and landlordism; acknowledgement of the rights of landless over land/pastures & rights of fishworkers over coastal areas and inclusion of communities in the planning process.
While some of the demands of people's movements were included in the 2013 Land Acquisition Act, majority of the demands were kept out of its purview. Some important provisions such as consent from 70% of the farmers affected by acquisition for private and public-private-partnership (PPP) projects; no acquisition of multi-crop land keeping in mind food security; an assessment of the social and environmental impact of the project with the participation of the gram sabha; and using the urgency clause only in the case of a natural calamity were included.
Despite rehabilitation being combined with land acquisition in the 2013 legislation, the question of alternative livelihood for the affected was not resolved. 2.5 acres of land for SC/ST families displaced by irrigation projects and only 1 acre for the rest; if possible, a job or an equivalent 5 lakh rupees compensation for youth of affected families; and compensation of two or four times the market or government rate were included. An important provision says that if the land continues to be in possession of the original owners for more than five years after acquisition and they have refused compensation then it shall be returned to them.
The Ordinance Raj that began soon after Narendra Modi came to power has put an end to the pro-people provisions of the legislation. In the land ordinance, it is not required to have consent of landed farmers even in the case of acquisition for private projects and includes provisions to give multi-crop land for industry as well. Companies are allowed to acquire land for all kinds of official and PPP projects as well as institutions such as private hospitals and schools. Despite retaining rehabilitation and compensation provisions, the bitter truth is that higher compensation cannot provide an alternative livelihood. The ordinance has been introduced by the centre's BJP government so that industrialists, Indian and foreign companies and builders can construct industrial corridors, open mines and accumulate real estate profits in the name of building cheap housing for the poor by grabbing farmers' lands. 3,90,000 square hectares of agricultural lands being seized from the hands of farmers for the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor alone and transferred to companies.
Bulldozer attacks on slums of cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Ranchi are increasing at an alarming rate. Thousands of hectares of land belonging to the public are being looted to increase the breadth and luster of cities. Communities whose survival is linked to nature are being destroyed and the process of amending environmental laws, provisions of legal regulations, labour laws, forest laws, employment guarantee and food security laws has already begun and all this happening just to secure the wealth of the new landlords—Ambani, Adani, Tata, Mittal.
The current central government is handing over the country's resources to Indian and foreign companies while dividing the society on caste, religious lines and challenging a secular, socialist and just constitution. This is a gross violation of people, democracy and the nation's constitution.
It is the need of the hour to unite in a decisive struggle to oppose the state's anti-people ordinances.
Vol. 47, No. 38, Mar 29 - Apr 4, 2015