Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Modi "encouraged" Gujarat, Odisha to promulgate own bills to undermine "progressive" 2013 land law

By Our Representative
National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), the apex body of tens of mass organizations, has wondered if the Narendra Modi government has “encouraged” Gujarat to bypass the "progressive" Land Acquisition Act, 2013, by coming up with its own legislation, Gujarat Agricultural Land Ceilings Bill, in order to allow corporates to buy up farmers’ land without any hindrance.
Even as welcoming Modi for deciding not to re-promulgate the ordinance which had sought to undermine the “progressive” and “pro-farmer” provisions of the LAA, 2013, the NAPM, noting the new disturbing trend, says, “It remains to be seen if there is proper implementation of LAA 2013 at the state-level.”
Led by well-known social activist Medha Patkar, NAPM has said, already, two states have been “encouraged” to bypass the Central LAA and frame their own legislations, Gujarat and Odisha. In a statement, it has demanded, “The Government of India needs to ensure that the LAA 2013 is uniformly applied to states and the rights of the people are protected.”
Calling Modi’s announcement not to re-promulgate the controversial ordinance as “symbolizing victory of people’s movements”, NAPM said, “Since the time government promulgated land ordinance in the last week of December 2014, farmers and peasants, forests dwellers, adivasis and numerous others have showed their steadfast opposition to the ordinance and demanded that it should be repealed without conditions.”
NAPM recalls, in its submission to the Joint Parliamentary Committee, it “not only demanded the withdrawal of the ordinance, but also asked for addition of many other provisions to the 2013 Act.” The provisions to be added, it suggested, should be such that they “protect land rights and also address the woes and sufferings of the millions who have been displaced in the country in name of development and national interest, post-Independence.”
NAPM further says, “On the face of it, Bihar elections are being said to be the reason for this political decision.” Disagreeing with such an interpretation, it added, “However, it is the massive opposition to the corporate designs of the Modi government by the people of this country, which has forced the government to reverse its decision.”
Praising the role played by Congress, Left and other parties in ensuring that LAA remains intact, NAPM says, “Political parties in opposition have played a crucial role inside Parliament but ultimately it is the strength of the people’s movements and farmers organizations on the ground which has forced the government to take back the ordinance.”
“Now that it is clearly proved that this government will go to any lengths in order to please its corporate masters, it remains the primary onus of people's movements to ensure a constant vigilance on attempts of endangering the rights and livelihoods of millions of India's agricultural workers and farmers”, the statement says.
NAPM points out, “Even as we wait for the government to come up with the notification on application of 2013 Act to 13 Central Acts, we also look forward to the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), which debated and discussed the submissions made by different stakeholders, majority of which rejected the proposals of the government.”
Meanwhile, the Gujarat Agricultural Land Ceilings Bill, passed in the state assembly recently, has come under sharp criticism for favouring chosen businessmen by helping them acquire “precious agricultural land, usurping the rights of tribals, members of other backward class (OBC) communities, Dalits and cattle holders”.
In a statement, national spokespersons and Congress Shaktisinh Gohil said, “To make its plan smooth, Congress members were suspended from the House and the amendment bill was passed unanimously.” He added, “The government has taken advantage of the recent Supreme Court judgment which declared that grassland should be treated as agricultural land.”
Gohil, who is a Gujarat High Court advocate, too, said, “The land available under the Supreme Court verdict can change lives of lakhs of poor people of tribal, members of OBC communities, Dalits and cattle holders. But the government is interested in its favourite businessmen and industrialists, and so it changed the Act. Now this land can be given to industrialists.”

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