Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Delhi-Mumbai Industrial corridor is about land grab, says NAPM-sponsored national convention in Delhi

Medha Patkar
By Our Representative
A national convention on Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), proposed as joint Indo-Japanese project, held in Delhi, has reached the conclusion that the project is "not about development but resource grab and corporate profit". The National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), which organised the convention at the end of the month-long DMIC Virodhi Sangharsh Yatra March 19, 2013, brought together activists, supporters and experts on one platform to analyse outcomes and devise a strategy for further action. The Yatra was in Gujarat, which accounts for one-third of the project, in March second week.
Opening the session, Manoranjan Mohanty applauded the Yatris in spreading awareness about the DMIC.
“Very few people know of the DMIC corridor. Yatris are responsible for bringing this to the media’s attention", he said, adding, "Land acquisition and the development model were two issues which should be put before voters with elections round the corner without letting it become a propaganda tool for political parties. Prafulla Samantara opined that repeated crimes of the police and even corporate goons against innocent people were evidence of the creation of a police state. “How we organize into collective action is the question. This is the responsible role the NAPM has to take up. We need to stop the creation of a police state and ensure a democratic nation”, he said.
Narmada Bachao Andolan's Medha Patkar critiqued what she called "forced development", saying it is  "aggressive progress which furthers interests of cities alone." She said, “The current land bill has included everything from highways to damns under infrastructure... People are still without roads and toilets.” She added, "The idea of the need for infrastructure has been propagated effectively."
Most speakers commented on the sheer size and complexity of this project. “People have been fighting battles against SEZs, railway tracks, power plants little knowing that they were fighting the DMIC. Even the Principal Secretary in Maharashtra said that he knew no more than we do, that too from the website”, Patkar suggested.
Concern  was expressed on how the six states, where the DMIC is being implemented, had come together to do groundwork for the project, irrespective of ruling party. "Legal changes being brought about to legalise the loot. Blanket clearances over labour laws, land acquisition laws, environmental compliance rules for smooth implementation of the DMIC. But no project is possible without people’s participation,” she said, asking participants to campaign for “Kheti Bachao, Desh Bachao!”
Vikram Soni shared a presentation over water security illustrating the grave situation in this regard and availability, especially in the DMIC regions. "Five per cent of increasing sea levels is attributed to India’s lost groundwater alone! The strip between Mumbai and Delhi is also the driest in the country; It is seriously water stressed as most of its groundwater has been withdrawn. This makes the question of water availability for the DMIC a pertinent question. Leave alone rights, we’re talking about survival,” he said, adding, "Water acquisition must also be added to people’s agenda."
The convention saw representatives from each of the six states come and speak to the audience. Representing Maharashtra, Ulka Mahajan of Sarvahara Jan Andolan said, “There has been no talk of this project at the parliament or legislative assembly level. Gram sabha is still a long shot. When we started calling MPs and MLAs, they did not even know about DMIC. How can such a decision be thrust upon us without any discussion whatsoever? Till today, under the name of MIDC, which is a state corporation, 13 lakh acres has been acquired. Then there’s also JNPT, CIDCO and various other industrial bodies that facilitate the same."
She further said, "From RTI applications we found that 229 MIDC industrial areas have been established about which we are extracting information. Of these 80% plants are currently shut. People who have been rendered landless because of this acquisition are in the same situation without any improvements or employment through this development. If we are in the affected area today, what about all the people who are already in line waiting for employment? When will they deal with the displacement here?” She added, "As per the census report of 2007 and 2008, 4.5 million Medium, micro and small industry units have been shut. Bring in mega industries and 2.25 crore livelihoods will be directly hit. And they have stated that 3 lakh jobs will be given. How does this compare at all?"
Busting the myth of “Vibrant Gujarat” Krishnakant  revealed that most of the DMIC nodes were already being developed and today some of them most polluted, have high unemployment figures and low standards of living. “There is talk of international standards when it comes to PPP projects but when it comes to land acquisition, Indian standards are not even followed. People are still awaiting compensations and laws are bent,” he added.
“Hum ek inch zamin dene wale nahin hain!,” said Ram Krishna Alhawas representing Haryana. Expressing discontent over lack of basic amenities like clean drinking water he said that Haryana is the face of the DMIC and that the people of Haryana will not let it proceed any further. Similar sentiments were expressed by Hiramand Shinde (Sinnar), Balwant More (Nanded) and Prasad Bagwe (Karla) . 
 Umesh Tiwari from Madhya Pradesh called it “the biggest land acquisition in the history of the world. If we do not fight, we risk being looted.” Upendra Rawat from Delhi said “Before the loot of land, what does the government do? First it quashes the powers of the panchayat and then it creates a law to recognize the rights of the panchayat” referring to the process by which NCR regions were established in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
The convention also saw members K.B. Saxena (former secretary GoI), Abimanyu Shreshta (lawyer Supreme Court), Himanshu Damle (financial analyst, Bank Information Centre), Soumya Dutta (environmentalist, BVES) and Swati Sheshadri (Researcher, Equation) presenting brief analysis on the legal, environmental, financial aspects and on the land acquisition act and even tourism as land grab tool. KB Saxena pointed out that land acquired through private transactions and is outside any control hence should be looked into at length. 
Soumya Dutta talking about the environmental aspect focused on the spillover effects of additional factories being set up to provide resources for the DMIC industrial belt. On the legal front Abhimanyu Shreshta pressed on the point of raising objections as soon as notifications are received, otherwise there might not be a chance to do so later, while Himanshu Damle suggested putting pressure on the IIFC (Indian counterparts of the Project Development Fund) to share their safeguard policies in a transparent way. Ending the convention, Swati Sheshadri in her presentation on tourism spoke of inevitable recreational setups like hotels, golf courses etc. to cater to the industries. :Since tourism requires small sizes of land, and is acquired through private transactions, it evades most acquisition laws and environmental clearances", she added.

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