Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Proposed amendment Bill gives "undue freedom" to state govts to decide on acquiring irrigated land: NAPM

By Our Representative
Close on the heels of the Government of India announcing its intention to place the Bill amending the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, during the current session of Parliament, National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM), in a statement, has regretted that it may have some “positive points” like seeking majority consent, conducting Social Impact Assessment, an expanded definition of project affected persons, return of land in some cases to land owners. However, on the whole, it seeks to increase the role of the state in land acquisition. Saying that the bill is “tilted towards facilitating land acquisition”, the statement adds, this is one of the major reasons why “consensus on the bill has eluded for long and it has been under the discussion for seventh year now."
“It was introduced in the 13th Lok Sabha in 2007 as two separate Bills and in 14th Lok Sabha as a comprehensive Bill, which was a welcome step. However, after its introduction in 2010, the Bill was changed and continues to advocate acquisition for public private partnership (PPP) projects, private projects, flexible definition of 'public purpose', and acquisition of agricultural land, undermining not only the livelihood of the communities dependent on the Bill but also the food security of the nation”, the statement underscores. NAPM is an alliance of more than a dozen people’s movements across India, including Narmada Bachao Andolan, which is in a major struggle for the displaced people in Madhya Pradesh, and Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti of Gujarat.
The statement says, “The union government was compelled to bring in certain provisions to control the unjustifiable forcible acquisition of land and associated natural resources, such as minerals, for the private companies and their projects. The consent of 80% of affected land losers in the case of private projects and of 70% for PPP projects has now become a precondition, which is a major change.” However, by “excluding government projects and all Infrastructure projects, the Bill has become lame, with land acquisition not applicable in many conflict ridden projects”.
“It is also unacceptable”, the statement says, that “out of 16 central acts and 100 plus state Acts under, which there are provisions for forcible land acquisition, only three Acts have been brought under the purview of the new Bill, i.e. SEZ Act, Defence Act and Cantonment Act. This means that most of the private or public projects where land is being acquired under the Mines and Minerals Act, or states’ Industrial Development Acts, or National Highways Act, or Coal Bearing Area Act, will remain outside the ambit of the Bill.”
“All this indicates that the British legacy is is sought to be continued, with some exception. The UPA has lost the opportunity to make the development planning truly democratic and bring in the role of Gram Sabhas and the Urban Basti Sabhas in planning all the projects, including government and private projects”, the statement says, adding, "The Bill has rejected the Parliamentary Standing Committee's recommendation to leave all agricultural land under cultivation out of the purview of forcible land acquisition. Instead it puts in certain preconditions such as bringing in alternative land under cultivation for acquiring multi-crop land as the last resort, but that does not prevent acquisition of single crop land.”
“Thus 75% of India’s farmers engaged in rain fed agriculture will continue to have sword of land grab and eviction hanging on their heads”, the statement says, adding, “The Bill also gives State governments undue freedom to decide what percentage of irrigated land in a district can be acquired, when it is a issue of national importance. The food security of the country will be jeopardized. How will UPA ensure the amount of food required for Food Security Bill if they continue to brazenly acquire the land from farmers, 180 lakh hectares of land diverted in two decades”.
While resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) has been linked with land acquisition, “the R&R provisions are cash based. There is a strong doubt that the increased offer of high cash compensation, including 100% solatium, will act as a luring force to make the farmers loose land. In the present situation of inequity between the prices for the agricultural produce vis-à-vis industrial products and services, this will surely happen. Provision of one hectare of land for SC/ST or one acre of land in the command area for irrigation project affected SC/ST families is highly inadequate and will not ensure alternative livelihood after rehabilitation”, the statement reads.

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