Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Participants at national seminar apprehend, the new land acquisition Act will camouflage democratic rights

Medha Patkar
By Madhuresh Kumar
The Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, enacted recently, “will not end the land conflicts, nor will it provide relief to the millions who have been displaced, and hence there is a need to bring urgent amendments to the Act and also give inputs to process of rule making for Act”, social activist Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan said reflecting the views expressed at the two day national meeting on “Struggle for Land Rights and New Land Acquisition Act”, where representative several social movements from 10 states took part at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, Delhi.
Speaking on the occasion, Lingraj Azad, leader of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, Odisha, said, “Unfortunately, the new Act attempts to promote cash based compensation. Movements and struggles across the country might differ on the Act’s nuances, but are somewhere very closely related. All the movements are based on the struggle to survive and are not anti-development. Our reading is that, to counter the empowering laws as the forest rights Act or the fifth schedule, the new Act has been passed. The nexus between the politicians and corporates for money and power has led to the path of destruction.”
Lingraj Azad
Bhupinder Singh Rawat, of the Jan Sangharsh Vahini, said that housing complexes and industrial units “take advantage of the rise of prices and earn huge profits, but that should be shared with the farmers who lose the land.” In fact, the benefits must be democratically decided and distributed, including on the ownership over land. Unfortunately, the Act makes an attempt but it’s not adequate.”
Smita Gupta of the Communist Party India (Marxist) said the new Act is a step towards abolishing the concept of common property itself. “There is an attempt at giving role to Gram Sabha and public consultations at many stages but, unfortunately, the government can easily override the social impact assessment and the environment impact assessment and are not made binding in that sense”, she said.
“Consent has been made very redundant and no particular provisions to define and understand are illustrated”, said Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, member, Parliamentary Standing Committee, lamenting that “the suggestion to improve the preface of the Act was accepted but the intent was negated. The Gram Sabha, an elected body, has been made subservient to the executive authority and the collector has become once again the key figure in the new Act, which is unfortunate.”
Mani Shankar Iyer
KB Saxena, former rural development secretary, Government of India, said the previous attempts to make amendments to the Act have been half-hearted, and only when it was found that it would benefit of the companies that the 1984 Act was changed. In 2002, the first time National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy was drafted under pressure from movements, but more importantly from World bank. “Hence, the democratic pretention in the new Act is a fa├žade”, he said.
Anil Chaudhary of INSAF said the issue of land is extremely grave and Parliament did not even properly listen to the standing committee. “This shows the gravity of the situation and the powerful influence of people involved in the matter”, he said, adding, “Thus, the hunger and greed is not merely about a few projects but is part of a larger process. Corporate houses today exist on non-existing floating capital. The fight in the future is going to be directly with the companies.”
Prof Manoranjan Mohanty said, “We have to reject this Act and strengthen the movement. Within the possibilities of the law and scope of its improvement through guidelines, the bureaucrats will misuse this law in favour of the corporate lobbies, knowing the law will help us fight against those them.”
Prafulla Samantra of the Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Odisha, said, “Things we have gained is through movements, but things have been diluted. Other than that, there is not much to gain from the law. It is also a concession given to powerful classes to grab more land – and favour mining and other groups which earn huge profits.”
Prof Amit Bhaduri, speaking at the concluding session, said that “the important issue today is pursuit of an investment model based on the form of free or very subsidized natural resources. This is what needs to be fought, and unless this can change we will continue to witness this fictitious growth promoting inequity and injustice.”
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A short commentary on the Land Acquisition, prepared by the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), which organised the seminar, was distributed. Click HERE to read

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