Tuesday, April 07, 2015

"Benefits" of land ordinance cited amidst Gujarat farmer leaders' coordinated plan for anti-land acquisition struggle

By Our Representative
A group of Gujarat farmers’ organizations have formed a new farmers’ coordination committee, Sanyukt Khedut Sangharsh Samiti, to fight against the Government of India’s controversial land acquisition ordinance, re-promulgated last week, giving a long-drawn-out plan of struggle against the ordinance. The decision to form the Samiti was taken at a Chintan Shibir meeting of various farmers’ organizations in Ahmedabad.
To launch its struggle in May by holding two separate “yatras” – one starting at Dandi in South Gujarat, and the other at Porbandar in Saurashtra – Gujarat Khedut Samaj’s Sabar Rabari said, “The two streams will merge at Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR) to hold a huge farmers’ meet against the ordinance.”
To be headed by veteran former Congressman Sanat Mehta, among the organizations which have decided to be part of the Samiti include Gujarat Khedut Samaj, All-India Kisan Sabha and Saurashtra Ladat Samiti. The farmers’ meet at Dholera is likely to be addressed by anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, Rabari suggested.
While it is not known if the Chintan Shibir deliberated on certain pros and cons of the ordinance which is the main point of contention, already, some activists have suggested that it may actually prove to be “blessing in disguise” to the farmers of the Dholera special investment region (SIR), whose land was sought to be taken by taken away by without applying the Gujarat town planning Act, 1976.
The farmers of 22 villages in the south of Ahmedabad were officially told last year that they would have to part 50 per cent of their land for the Dholera SIR’s infrastructure development. Refusing to call it “land acquisition”, the notices to the farmers said they would be paid compensation as per the market rate fixed by the government.
A Gujarat government document, justifying the move, said that the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR, 2013) – which the Government of India has replaced with an ordinance – would not be application in areas where a town planning scheme had been floated.
The document, had said, “Wherever a town planning scheme is finalised, there will not be any land acquisition under any other law.” It had added, “As soon as the town planning scheme is finalised, any land acquisition under LARR, 2013 would be treated as illegal”.
The ordinance which replaces the Act, however, says that the ordinance’s provisions on land acquisition would have precedence over other existing laws for land acquisition. “For all practical purposes, it means that Dholera farmers’ 50 per cent land cannot now be taken away under the Gujarat town planning Act by paying them government-decided market rate”, a senior activist said.
“Under the ordinance, they would have to be paid at least four times the market rate as compensation, which the government was refusing to pay to Dholera farmers by citing the Gujarat town planning Act, apart from benefits like resettlement and rehabilitation”, the activist said.
An independent researcher, Kanchi Kohli, says in an analysis of the ordinance that provisions of the LARR Act related to rehabilitation, resettlement as well as provision of infrastructure amenities like roads, drinking water, fair price shops, burial and cremation grounds will now apply to “all enactments listed in the Fourth Schedule of the LARR Act, 2013.”
Kohli adds, “What this implies is that even when land is acquired for coal mining, railways, nuclear power installations, highways etc, in future, it would be acquired under the LARR Act and not the other existing legislations.”

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