Several civil society organizations have, in a joint representation to the President of India, asked him not to give assent to the Telangana Land (Acquisition) Amendment Bill, 2016, which, according to them, is anti-farmer and anti-people, it because nullifies “progressive” provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation & Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013.
The letter claims, if the Bill is okayed by the President, it would result in “immense harm to lakhs of small and marginal farmers, landless families and displaced persons, most of who are Dalits, adivasis, women of Telangana.”
According to the letter, LARR Act, 2013 includes consultation with Gram Sabhas, social impact assessment (SIA), options assessment and minimizing acquisition/destruction of farm land, acquisition of minimum multi-crop land only as the last option, ensuing food security, recognition of the livelihood rights of landless, fair compensation, land-based R&R etc, return of land unutilized even after 5 years etc.
“However”, insists the letter, “the proposed Telangana Bill violates these and many other key provisions.”
The letter has been endorsed by the National Alliance of People’s Movements, which is the apex body of tens of grassroots organizations of India, Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression, Mahila Kisaan Adhikar Manch, Rythu Swarajya Vedika, Human Rights Forum, Telangana Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union, Caring Citizens Collective, Mallanna Sagar Project-affected People’s Organization, among others.
Well-known activists, academics and lawyers, including Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Sandeep Pandey, Dr. Sunilam, Prof. Uma Chakravarty, Sujatha Surepally Padmaja Shaw, Jeevan Kumar, Kiran Vissa, and P Chennaiah, have also signed the letter.
The Bill, says the letter, “strikes a death blow to the concept of welfare state that must protect the marginalized communities, and instead gives legislative sanction to state-sponsored real estate, through private agreements with land-owners and mere payment of meagre cash to all other landless/ livelihood losers.”
It adds, “By exempting defence, national security projects, rural infrastructure including electrification, affordable housing and housing for the poor people, industrial corridors, infrastructure and social infrastructure projects, including public-private partnership (PPP) projects, the government has effectively insulated most projects from the pre-requisites of SIA, determination of public purpose and mandate to attend to food security concerns.”
The letter stresses, the Bill is a “rehash” of a draconian government order (GO) MS No 123 that was stayed by the High Court, as it “violated several fundamental rights, including Article 14, 19, 21 (life and livelihood).”
It adds, “If this Bill becomes law in the state of Telangana the very premise of enacting the comprehensive LARR Act, 2013 would become redundant. The Bill is a pernicious attempt of abuse of constitutional provisions. Since the Centre has already passed the 2013 Act, the state governments only have a ‘limited’ right vis-à-vis declaration of ‘better’ compensation and ‘better’ rehabilitation and resettlement than the LA Act 2013, and can in no way dilute the 2013 Act itself.”
The letter reminds the President that “as per Article 254 (2) of the Constitution and the Judgement of the Supreme Court in a landmark Constitution Bench decision in Kaiser-I-Hind Pvt. Ltd. vs National Textile Corporation (2002), he has every right and responsibility to ensure a complete and active application of mind and objective examination of the overall facts and circumstances.”