Saturday, November 21, 2015

Work out land use policy in India to "protect" farmers from corporate land transfer: Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan

By Our Representative
A two-day national meeting on November 19-20 at the Indian Social Institute, Delhi, with the participation of delegates from 22 states representing over 100 mass organisations has come for forward with the demand for a land use policy from the Government of India in order to “protect” farm land from large scale diversion to non-agricultural purposes like industry and infrastructure.
A statement issued after the meeting, organized under the auspices of the umbrella of Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan (BAA), said such a policy should give “priority to the country’s food and livelihood security, focusing not only on irrigated multiple-crop land but also single-crop land in rainfed areas which form 60% of cultivated area.”
“Gram Sabha and panchayat should have control over the utilization of public lands and have an intrinsic role in development planning”, it said, adding, the government should respect provisions of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996.
Even as opposing the “dilution” of environmental laws based on the recent recommendations of the TSR Subramanian Committee, there is a need to work out a “a comprehensive strategy to address the shocking levels of agrarian distress in the country today.”
It said, “Over 3.2 lakh farmers have committed suicide since 1995 at the rate of one farmer committing suicide every half an hour. The human tragedy is of a magnitude unheard of in the entire history of humanity.”
Against this backdrop, BAA demanded “income security for every agricultural household through a permanent Farmers’ Income Commission”, adding the minimum support price “should be declared at 50% above cost of cultivation in all 25 crops through procurement, market intervention and price guarantee.”
“The farmers’ seed rights should fully protected instead of handing over seed control to MNCs through intellectual property rights (IPRs) and genetically modified (GM) expansion into crops like brinjal and mustard”, BAA said, adding, “Comprehensive support is essential for shift from high-input chemical agriculture to low-external-input ecologically sustainable and rainfed agriculture.”
BAA, which was formed with the active intervention of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) during opposition to the now dropped controversial amendments sought by the NDA government to the Land Acquisition Act (LAA), 2013, decided to begin a protected struggle for its demands starting with a rally at Sansad Marg in Delhi on December 15, the forests rights day.
Among those who spoke at the meeting included NAPM’s Medha Patkar, Communist leaders Hannan Mollah and Satyavan, Ulka Mahajan of Sarvahara Jan Andolan, apart from well-known activists Ashok Choudhary, Prafulla Samantara, Dayamani Barla, Alok Shukla, Roma, Anil Chaudhary and others.
In separate resolutions, BAA extended support to the struggle of Karchana peasants against Jaypee Associates in Uttar Pradesh, and demanded release of 42 persons who have jailed; and condemned the Maharashtra government notification allowing easy conversion of agricultural land to industrial purposes, even as  demanding special compensation package to drought affected farmers.

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