Skip to main content

JAAG puts forward 10-point charter, says Gujarat government's land acquisition ways favouring corporates

By Our Representative
In a strongly-worded statement, the Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat's (JAAG), formed in the wake of the movement against the Bhecharaji-Mandal special investment region (SIR) and the threat to evict the farmers from their land, has said that the “situation in Gujarat on several fronts of livelihoods land, agriculture, water, common property resources is today more serious than ever before”, adding, “Reality in Gujarat is, big corporate houses are being gifted away large tracts of lands, including privately held agricultural lands as well as common property resources of pastureland, wastelands and water bodies.”The statement, which contains several demands, put up before the Gujarat government, failing which JAAG might be obliged to kickstart a larger movement, insisted, “While this is being done, those who are legally entitled to get land from the government, the dalits and the adivasis, are constantly and ruthlessly being denied their due. Prime agricultural land is being diverted to industry and the farmers have no say in deciding their future.”
Giving the example of “the recent stir against the proposed Mandal-Bechraji SIR, saying it is “one such case of anti-people projects in the garb of ‘development’”, the statement said, “It can only bring mass poverty, destruction of whatever is left of rural farming and agriculture and environmental catastrophe.” It added, “The impact of such steps on the lives of women and children in particular – severe malnourishment, adverse health impacts, curtailment of educational opportunities, forced migration, and trafficking – have never been factored into the ‘development’ discourse, keeping them invisible and yet the first victims of ‘development’."
Sayng that all of it is happening in the name of development, it says, “This anti-people understanding of development is leading to jobless growth and massive impoverishment, malnourishment and distress suicides. These cannot characterise any society or economy as ‘developed’, but rather would constitute backwardness of the highest order. Indeed, Gujarat’s 11th rank (out of 23) on human development indices"
In view of this, JAAG issued a list of demands, signed up by as many as 40-odd sympathisers. The list of demands includes:
* The Gujarat Special Investment Region Act 2009 is violative of fundamental rights and therefore completely unacceptable to us and should be scrapped altogether. The Gujarat SIR Act 2009 under which the Mandal-Bechraji SIR is being proposed and undertaken does not have any provisions for safeguarding the right to livelihood, freedom to pursue occupations of their choice or their rights over the common and natural resources of the region like water, forests, pastures and clean air. The Act does not adhere to any fundamental rights, including the right to life and livelihood, their welfare, their rights to safeguard their culture, occupations and ways of life. Constitutionally mandated and elected bodies like the Gram Sabhas and Gram panchayats also do not find the right to represent their grievances. Such legislations would be unconstitutional and undemocratic.
* Stop decommanding of the Narmada command areas. The people of Gujarat have been promised Narmada dam waters for the last 50 years. The farmers have waited patiently for the Narmada waters, which promise to make agriculture more attractive to farmers. Now when the entire infrastructure which will bring water to the fields is in place, the Government of Gujarat has come with a project which takes away their water and gives it to industry. This is unacceptable. We call upon the Government of Gujarat to stop decommanding of the Narmada command areas with immediate effect.
* The Gujarat Irrigation and Drainage Act 2013 is a draconian piece of legislation and severely violates fundamental rights and needs to be withdrawn immediately. According to the Act a farmer cannot install a borewell in his/her fields without government permission. The farmers will now need a licence to draw water from canals and the amount of water that can be drawn by a farmer will be decided by the government. Even the price of water used in the fields for irrigation will be fixed and government officials have been authorised to file cases against farmers who break the law. The farmers will now need to declare the details of wells and ponds in their fields. This would make farming and agriculture a Herculean task and would deter farmers from pursuing agriculture.
* Declare a moratorium on Cujarat Industrial Development Corporation's (GIDC’s) land acquisition. The GIDC has a huge land bank, developed over the years through acquisition of land from farmers ostensibly for ‘public purpose’. Much of this land is currently unutilised, as has been pointed out by the CAG reports. Despite this, the GIDC has continued to acquire land in several areas. Most often it resorts to veiled threats under which farmers are made to part with their land. These lands are then transferred to industrial houses which is illegal as it constitutes a change of purpose. GIDC’s data on land ought to be first put in the public domain for scrutiny. Till such time a complete moratorium of GIDC’s land acquisition.
* The Government of Gujarat needs to come out with an Agriculture Policy. Agriculture as a sector has been neglected and no proactive policy measures, such as are made for industry, have been taken for it. The Government of Gujarat needs to come out with policy measures for promotion and sustenance of agriculture (as against agri-business or agro-industrial policy) as the primary economic sector even today.
* The Government of Gujarat needs to come out with a comprehensive policy on the use, access to and maintenance of common property resources (CPRs). Forests, water bodies, pasture lands, wastelands, coasts, are crucial to the survival and well being of several communities in Gujarat. They provide primary and secondary sources of livelihoods to millions of landless families and communities. These have to be maintained and augmented (quantum and quality) in order for these people to survive. The rights of people over these resources (as against ‘government ownership) should form the bedrock of this policy.
* The Government of Gujarat needs to unambiguously demonstrate its will to give land to Adivasis and to landless Dalits under the provisions of the Forest Rights Act and Land Ceiling Act respectively. Even when it claims on paper to have given the land, the actual possession of the land is never being enjoyed by the Dalits or Adivasis. The state machinery has not intervened on their side to ensure that possession of land actually materialises on the ground.
* Declare a moratorium on sale of CPRs. Forests, pasture land (gauchar), wastelands (padtar), sea coasts are common property resources (against the convoluted understanding in government circles that it is of government ownership) on which many marginalised communities subsist, apart from them being absolutely necessary to maintain ecological balance. The coasts, now heavily privatised, are the sole means of subsistence for fisherfolk who depend on them for their livelihood. The gauchars are especially important to the maldhari community and other nomadic and pastoralist communities whose sole means of livelihood, cattle rearing and breeding, depends on gauchars.
* The Government of Gujarat must come out with a white paper on land acquisitions in Gujarat from 1960 upto 2012. It should also include environmental impact assessment, social impact assessment and cost-benefit analysis of industrialisation (jobs created, nature of jobs, incomes earned, infrastructure, usage of this infrastructure ) in Gujarat since the formation of the state in 1960 up until 2012.
* All land related information to be put in the public domain. The government needs to bring in transparency in its land dealings with industry and other established sectors. It needs to give out accurate and updated data on land use, land acquired, land leased etc. Transparency is also required in the method of zeroing in on particular parcel/s of land and the method of arriving at pricing and compensation to the landowners/losers.

Comments

TRENDING

Nirma varsity demand for higher fees 'illegal', violates Article 14: Letter to Gujarat HC

Counterview Desk
Students of Gujarat’s top private institute, Nirma University, situated in the outskirts of Ahmedabad, in a letter to the Chief Justice the state High Court, have complained that the authorities are demanding “full fees” from students, without taking into account the “disproportionate impact” the lockdown has on the livelihood of students and families.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Vulnerable to Covid-19, sharp rise in murder of Indian journalists during pandemic

By Nava Thakuria*
Vulnerability of working journalists in India is no way an alien issue as the populous country loses a number of working journalists to assailants as also medical emergencies. Even though there was only one casualty in the Indian media fraternity during the first half of 2020, who was targeted for journalistic work, India has begun witnessing an alarming number of media casualties during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Govt 'assures' Gujarat HC no action against MBBS students defying corona sahayak order

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government has assured the High Court that no action would be taken against Part-I and Part-II MBBS students of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC)-controlled NHL Medical College and LG Hospital and Medical College. The assurance follows the direction by Justice SH Vora to the State government not to prosecute or initiate action against the students who were defying the college authorities’ order to work as corona sahayaks (helpers).

Renounced US citizenship to serve workers, tribals, Sudha Bharadwaj 'odiously' in jail

By Atul, Sandeep Pandey*
Professor Sudha Bharadwaj has been in jail since August 2018. She was taken into police custody on August 26, 2018 on suspicion of being involved in Maoist terror activities after Republic TV claimed that she had allegedly written a letter to Maoists and was conspiring to create public disorder and unrest in India.

Cruel legacy of Green Revolution? Covid-19 underscores 'risky, fragile' food system

By Moin Qazi*  The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the risks of an unhealthy diet and the extreme fragility of food systems. The economic reconstruction that will follow the pandemic is the perfect opportunity to provide better nutrition and health to all. The pandemic should spur us to redefine how we feed ourselves, and agricultural research can play a vital role in making our food systems more sustainable and resilient.

Plant organic, eat fresh: Emlen Bage's journey from migrant labour to agri-entrepreneur

By Chandrashekar and Kriti*
Who is a farmer? Type this question in the google search and check out the images? You can see men thronging the screen. This is the popular perception around the globe. Well one can understand how difficult it would be for a woman to defy this perception.

High youth unemployment: India 'fails' to take advantage of demographic dividend

By Varun Kumar
As coronavirus pandemic continues amplifying challenges among youth with regard to employment opportunities, government policies have further resulted in economic slowdown, leading to mass unemployment and loss jobs. According to the International Labour Organisation report “Covid-19 and the World of Work” (May 27, 2020), around 94 percent of the world’s workers are living in countries with some sort of workplace closure measures in place.

Dichotomy? US Hindutva groups oppose racism, mum on Modi's 'anti-minority' stance

By Our Representative
The Hindus for Human Rights (HHR), a US-based advocacy group, has noticed a major dichotomy between the stance taken by RSS’ US arm, Hindu Swayamsewak Sangh (HSS), expressing “shock” at the “painful killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others”, all of which suggest “the tragic tale of racial injustice” in US, and HSS’ “hatred” for India’s religious minorities and Dalits.