Monday, January 19, 2015

India's opposition streams show rare unity, speak out against the Centre's "anti-people" land ordinance

Sharad Yadav
By Our Representative
In a rare occurrence, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), the apex body of tens of rights organizations, succeeded in bringing together different opposition streams in Delhi. The event was a discussion on the land ordinance promulgated by the NDA government, and how it has already begun to impact one of the most important projects being implemented – of having a Greenfield capital for Andhra Pradesh following bifurcation of the state and formation of Telangana. The NAPM had called for discussion those parties which disagree with the Government of India move.
Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav, speaking up on the occasion, said, the land ordinance had provided “the right ammunition for people and parties to come together against this government with authoritarian tendencies”. Speaking in a similar tone, D Raja, Rajya Sabha MP, CPI, said “authoritarianism doesn't have a place in this country”, promising Left support to “other opposition parties” to mobilise people against the NDA to give it a “fitting reply”. Congress’ Jairam Ramesh and Aam Admi Party’s Yogendra Yadav sent in their messages offering support for a united move against the ordinance.
MG Devasahayam, retired IAS official who headed the Fact Finding Team constituted by the NAPM, said the project would prove to be a “windfall” for the real estate developers. Already, a Singapore firm, he pointed out, has been given complete rights. According to him, “The Capital Sitting Committee had specified least possible dislocation to existing agricultural practices, and it did not favour a Greenfield capital, yet this was completely “disregarded”.
“Guntur district near Vijaywada, has a thriving agricultural economy of Rs 1,000 crore and 120 different crop varieties. The region has 85 percent small and marginal farmers and also has women entrepreneurs who earn Rs.200-700 per day. The planned capital will take 30,000 acres of multi-crop farmland from 29 villages affecting two lakh-plus population”, Devasahayam said, adding, “The land pooling scheme, meant to be voluntary, is being used to forcefully acquire land from farmers.”
C Ramachandraiah, Leader of Opposition, Andhra Pradesh legislative council, said that the MoU with Singapore was done “without any knowledge to chief minister Chandrababu Naidu’s own cabinet colleagues, not to talk of MLAs and MLCs”, adding, “Naidu is following exactly the same style of functioning as Narendra Modi is following at the Centre.”
Ramakrishna Raju, NAPM convener, who visited the area along with K Babu Rao, senior scientist, said, “Farmers and workers do not want to give land but are being coerced into doing so. More than 1,000 police personnel have been deployed in the region and people are being forced to sign away their land. Minimal cash compensation is being provided. The implicit reasoning behind the large amount of land needed is to convert it into real estate will benefit only the developers.”
Speaking on the ordinance, KB Saxena, former Secretary to the Government of India, and Usha Ramanathan, legal researcher, said that it has “taken us back to the 1894 land acquisition Act, with “no system of checks and balances”. He added, “The ordinance has diluted a range of consent provisions as well as opened up the field for all forms of private and public private partnerships. It has also taken out the provision for social impact assessment”.
Ritwick Dutta, environmental lawyer said that the ordinance needs to be seen in conjunction with changes and dilutions in the environmental regulations as suggested by the TS Subramanian Committee. “These dilutions will have far reaching implications since they exempt almost every project from the provisions of the public hearing and consent in the name of national and strategic importance”, he said. Others who spoke included Swami Agnivesh and senior environmentalist Vandana Shiva.

NAPM Statement

An NAPM statement said, “An immediate fallout of the ordinance is the large-scale land grab proposed in the name of development of a new Greenfield capital city of Andhra Pradesh near Vijayawada in Guntur District.” It added, “Chandigarh, which is the most acclaimed Greenfield capital city only, acquired less than 9000 acres in Phase 1, and less than 6000 acres in Phase 2. This low-rise-low-density city has a population of just over one million six decades after the commencement of its development.”
Wondering what is the need for acquiring 52,000 acres, which can go up to 1 lakh acres, NAPM said, “The impression has gathered that the ‘massive capital city’ of Andhra Pradesh and the Central ordinance give out one clear message – that people's consent and rights will not be respected in order to facilitate real estate development and profit for corporate houses.”

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