Friday, June 12, 2015

Parliamentary panel "ignoring" farmers, adivasis, while seeking representation on land acquisition law

Gujarat farmers protest land acquisition for nuclear plant at Mithi Virdi 
By Our Representative
Thirty-odd Gujarat-based civil rights organizations, called by non-political farmers' body Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG), have taken strong exception to the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), formed to collect suggestions into controversial amendments to the Land Acquisition Act (LAA), 2013, for refusing to directly talk to the oustees affected by different projects across India.
In one of the best representations to the JPC made public in the recent past, the joint representation to the JPC said, a formal process of public consultation should have been undertaken "via public hearings, oral submissions etc." because most of the farmers affected by projects cannot make written representations.
"You will appreciate that written submissions will be made by only a limited number of individuals and organisations. Farmers, adivasis, the rural population and other affected poor people who are the primary stakeholders in this process would be at a considerable disadvantage where written submissions have to be made", the submission said.
They said, this was particularly important as LAA 2013 or Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 was "the culmination of decades of struggle by affected people against arbitrariness, injustice and something that – to the affected people – must certainly appear to be a land grab."
"The process of enacting this legislation was also unprecedented", they insisted, adding, inputs were given large sections, political and non-political, academia and practitioners, "thus making it perhaps one of the most in-depth, participatory and inclusive legislative processes ever."
Pointing out that the argument for coming up to amend LAA 2013, that land acquisition for industry was getting delayed is totally wrong, the JAAG-led representation said, "Studies have shown that over 92 per cent of the in-pipeline projects were held up due to reasons other than land acquisition-related issues."
"Clearly, implementation of the Act was not even initiated/attempted and the conclusion was reached that ‘it was unimplementable’.", it said, adding, "The amendments in the Ordinance make a mockery of the ‘consent’ requirement, the heart and soul of the principal Act and the demand over decades by affected people."
What is worse, the representation said, even "temporary acquisitions are also exempt from consent requirements which in our view is altogether unjust." It added, "In our opinion, consent (of the affected families and the gram sabhas) must be mandatory for all acquisitions – government or otherwise, temporary or permanent."
"It is also noteworthy that in the last one year the economy has not shown any signs of revival. In such a situation the question that arises is: what will the government do with the land thus acquired?", wonders the representation, adding, "Surely, the Government would not want to facilitate a process whereby land becomes an easy destination to park the black money fuelling speculative land markets."
Pointing towards how the new proposed amendment is pro-corporate, the representation said, it removes the earlier restriction to “companies registered under the Companies Act 2013” and broadens the scope of acquisition. It empowers the government to acquire it for anyone or anything as per its will, choice or discretion."

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