Monday, October 28, 2013

NAPM calls for consultations on new land acquisition Act, says it will not end 'corporate-induced' conflicts

By Our Representative
In an important move, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), an apex body of several environmental and human rights groups, has decided to hold consultation with activists and experts on November 19-20, 2013 at Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, in order to come a “reasonable critique” of the Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, or the Land Acquisition Act, passed by Parliament recently. In a statement sent to activists and experts to take part in the consultation, NAPM has said, the new Act “will not put an end to forcible land acquisitions and conflicts around that.”
Pointing out that the Act “will neither end the miseries of displacement and nor empower communities rights and our struggle for democratic development and against corporate loot will continue”, the NAPM statement says, it is against this backdrop that “it is imperative that many of us who have been part of the struggles engage with the new legislation, strategize and make it a tool along with other laws to challenge the corporate loot of precious natural resources”. This is because the Act also contains some of the positive points for which the “people’s movements” have been fighting.
This is particularly important because, the statement underlines, “land acquisition is going to increase, given the large number of thermal power plants, dams, nuclear power plants, special investment regions, industrial corridors, manufacturing zones, highways, ports, airports, real estate projects and other infrastructure projects planned by the governments threatening the livelihood of millions and this new Act is to facilitate that.”
Those aligned in the fight against land acquisition process in Gujarat particularly highlight how the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) may lead to huge lands going to the corporate sector. “The Act provides for major concessions to the government in the consultation process for acquiring land for public purpose”, a senior activist said, adding, “DMIC and special investment zones, which are to dot the corridor, are regarded by the state government as public purpose.”
The NAPM statement warns, “There is a purposeful propaganda spread by the corporations and corporate media that the new Act is detrimental to industrialization, what we believe is that this is going to create havoc in the country and cause severe land conflicts and will only facilitate land acquisition. Hence, it is important to understand the new Act, to engage with it and see it as a tool for struggle.”
“The rules for the new Act have been put up for comments from public by the Ministry of Rural Development”, the NAPM says, adding, “As in past, we should read it, engage with it and give our reactions to it, in whatever form we deem fit… It is in this context that we invite you to a two day consultation to discuss and debate the provisions of the new Act, proposed draft rules for the Act and people's movements strategy in the upcoming Elections, it tells in its invitation.
The tentative agenda for consultations include a discussion on the Act itself, a discussion on implications of the provisions of the Act for communities, responses to the Act and draft rules, and how the Act should be interpreted in the backdrop of the upcoming assembly elections and the general election. The discussion is particularly important, says the statement, as “after years of struggles by the people's movements in the country, the colonial Land Acquisition Act, 1894 has been repealed and a new law been enacted.”
“General Elections and Assembly Elections in many of the states are due in coming months. Political parties, those in power and in opposition have all started working on plans, schemes and legislations targeting electorates and addressing their constituencies. UPA government has passed on some of the key legislations with political benefits in mind in the coming elections, including the new land act along with the National Food Security Act”, the statement says.
However, it emphasizes, “The broader questions of people's participation in development process, development with dignity, equity and justice and strengthening of communities rights over natural resources remain unaddressed. NAPM has been engaged in the process of developing an alternative to the whole framework of land acquisition by state in the name of public purpose using the power of eminent domain since late 1980s”.
It adds, “The question of protecting land rights, livelihoods of nature based communities, making displacement a coterminous agenda with development to be addressed by the government and a whole new framework of development planning, was put in public domain by NAPM”.
Pointing out that in early 1990s a draft Bill was submitted to the Government of India, later in 2006 a different version was accepted by National Advisory Council and since then many presentations to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, Ministry of Rural Development, other concerned Ministries and political parties have been made, the NAPM says, :The act now passed by the Parliament draws from our efforts starting with the very fact that there is a comprehensive Act, as opposed to two separate legislations, one for land acquisition and another for resettlement and rehabilitation.”
In addition, the statement points out, there are such provisions such as “Social Impact Assessment, an expanded definition of project affected families, rehabilitation and resettlement benefits to the landless and groups other than land owners and role for Gram / Basti Sabha at different stages, consent of project affected and so on.”

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