Friday, September 19, 2014

Drop "draconian" Rajasthan land acquisition bill, seeking to jail and fine protesters: Demonstrators to CM

Protest against "draconian" land acquisition bill, Rajasthan
By Our Representative
In a representation to Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, several people’s organisations have said that the new Rajasthan land acquisition bill, 2014, tabled in the state assembly, was a clear effort of the state government to “undermine democratic and constitutional principles and traditions”, as it contradicts the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, Resettlement Act, passed in Parliament last year. Saying that the bill ignores that it will adversely “impact more than 75 per cent of the population of the state”, it said, it is an effort to change Rajasthan “forever from a farming state to an urban state.”
Ahead of the representation on September 18, the people’s organisations took out a rally consisting of activists working on land rights issues from Jhunjhunu, Sikar, Udaipur, Rajsamand, Ajmer, Bhilwara, Alwar, Pali and Jaipur districts. “People were outraged at the audacity of the chief minister in proposing a law, which would criminalise protest, sending to jail people for up to six months with a fine of up to Rs 300,000. It was also clear that the intent of the law was to hurriedly hand over fertile agriculture land to the corporate”, a joint statement by the participating organisations said.
Led by well-known social activist Medha Patkar and former MLA Amra Ram of the AIKS, Patkar told the demonstrators that the Rajasthan government was trying to bring back laws with colonial times jurisprudence, and the agenda is to change the 2013 law passed by the Parliament, which ensured that the voice and rights of farmers, agricultural labourers, urban poor and other displaced sections was heard and kept intact.
Of the dozen people’s organisation which represented to the Rajasthan chief minister include the All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), the National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM), and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Rajasthan), the National Federation of Indian Women, trade unions and organisations working on land rights issues. 
Patkar manhandled by cops outside assembly
Pointing out that the bill has been brought in “haste and without any public discussion”, the representation said, “You have asked for the present special session to pass this law hurriedly so that you can hand over agricultural land to the corporate sector. This is what has been said in the statements of objects and reasons of the law.”
The representation said, the Rajasthan bill removes the provision of social impact assessment (SIA) because it is allegedly “time-consuming”, as also the “mandatory provision of rehabilitation”. Further, the bill only provisions giving compensation for land acquisition from five to nine times of the district level committee (DLC) rates fixed by the registration and stamp department, Government of Rajasthan, which far lower than the market rates.
The representation further said, “This bill has provisions which make the law draconian. By provisioning in the law itself punishment of up to six months imprisonment and up to Rs 300,000 fine for carrying out protests, shows that you are willing to sacrifice people’s right to lawful assembly and dissent and prevent any challenge to Government policy on development and industrialisation.”
“This law undermines both rural and urban local bodies, panchayati raj institutions and municipalities and panchayat extension to scheduled areas Act, by taking away the right to consent by the gram sabha”, it pointed out, adding, “When there is already a central law in place, what is the justification of bringing in a new law which withdraws the positive provisions of the central law.”
Suspecting that the intention of the 2014 Rajasthan bill “is simply one, as to how to hand over fertile agriculture land, grazing land, sawai chak land and forests to the corporates in the name of infrastructure development”, the representation said, “The draft law was put on the website on August 16, 2014 in English. It was not considered important enough to translate it into Hindi, so that the farmers who are going to be the ones affected most can send their comments to the draft law.”
Terming all this as “tokenism”, it added, “There was no official advertisement of the government inviting suggestions through the newspapers or on TV channels. Only 10 days have were given to send comments.”

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