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New land acquisition bill will nullify food security, legitimise land acquisition for corporates, says NAPM

By Our Representative
The National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM), which is the apex body of more than a dozen mass organisations operating in different parts of India, has said that the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2011, passed in the Lok Sabha, seeks to provide legitimacy to land acquisition for 'private profit' in the name of public purpose. By introducing the Bill, “the UPA is hiding behind the poor and this brazen push for the land acquisition for the private companies will threaten food security and livelihood of millions”, NAPM has said in a statement.
Expressing the apprehension that the Lok Sabha may have passed the National Food Security Bill, but the land acquisition bill “will divert more agricultural land” for industrial use, NAPM said, “For decades people's movements have been struggling against the forced land acquisition, without any recourse to satisfactory rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R). Today, in an atmosphere, where everything from roads, hospital to tourism, mining, electricity developed by public or private corporations, is considered as public good, we feel that Bill will continue to betray the faith of people in development process.”
The attempt to repeal the 1894 Act was initiated in the context of the killings and land conflicts in Nandigram and Singur, yet “the whole debate is centred only around the growth and industrialisation”, NAPM said, adding, “Political and elite class of this country is driving this hype at the cost of alienating large section of population, who will only have the option to resist and challenge forced acquisition of their land and natural resources by corporations in name of development and growth.”
NAPM said the Bill has been renamed as Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill, “with a claim to better reflect government’s commitment towards securing a legal guarantee for the rights of project affected, and ensuring greater transparency in the land acquisition process. It is also claimed that the Bill will ensure, in concert with local institutions of self-government and Gram Sabhas established under the Constitution, a humane, participative, informed, consultative and transparent process for land acquisition.”
“However, we feel that the Parliament should not pass the Bill, in its current form. It needs to be debated democratically debated by all and take those in account, rather than succumb to the private corporations interests and pursue undemocratic growth. Until then one must put a moratorium on all ongoing land acquisitions in the country”, NAPM said.
Pointing towards its objections one by one, NAPM said, “The definition of the term public purpose is restrictive. A decision on public purpose should be taken by a committee consisting of not just bureaucrats and representatives of the democratically elected local self government institution, but also Gram Sabha and Basti Sabha in consonance with the Article 243 provisions. This alone will democratise the development planning.”
NAPM said, “It is ironical that while food processing and other agriculture related secondary and tertiary sector industries have been brought in the public purpose definition, agriculture itself has not been considered a public purpose, something which would have meant no acquisition of agricultural land.”It added, “No forcible acquisition for private projects, or for public private partnership (PPP) can categorized as public purpose projects.”
NAPM emphasized, “In an era of neo-liberal economic reforms, private projects with corporate investment and interests are taking a much larger toll of land and other rich natural resources as also uprooting by killing communities which are generations old. This must come to an end and the same can happen only with stopping the State playing a role of facilitator and land dealer. At the cost of the livelihood of the nature based sections and working class section of society, the state can't transfer the most valuable livelihood resources such as land, water to the profiteering bodies in the garb of 'public interest' and 'public purpose'.”
Coming to issues related with food security and agricultural land acquisition, NAPM said, there should be “no forcible acquisition of agricultural land, for non-agricultural purpose including single crop and multi crop land”, adding, “The proposed Bill leaves this to the state governments to decide, rather than take a clear stand on it. It makes provisions for acquisition of common property resources too.” It wonders, “How can the in-between farms that may be unirrigated, rain fed, single crop be left out? India has 75% of the agricultural land as rain fed and most of it single cropped. Such land is mostly held by Dalits, Adivasis and marginal farms. Protecting them and all farm land for food security, which comes not from PDS but self sufficient agriculture, is a must.”
The Parliamentary Standing Committee had recommended that all 16 central acts should be brought under the purview of the new act, to make all equal before law (Article 14 of the Constitution). Ignoring this, NAPM said, “the Ministry of Rural Development wants to exclude 13 out of 16 Acts including Industrial Development Act, Land Acquisition (Mines) Act, National Highways Act and others from the purview of the new Bill. This means that 90% of the land acquired as on today will continue with injustice and force used, with no change at all.” NAPM recommends, “The standing committee recommendations must be upheld to end brutal unjust acquisition for all projects under various state and central laws”.
In yet another recommendation, NAPM takes exception to consent by majority of land losers in the proposed Bill. It says, “Consent and direct involvement of majority of the Gram Sabhas must be there in each and every project, including public projects for public purpose. 80% and 70% consent of the land losers for the private and public - private projects, respectively, alone is not sufficient. Also, why should the linear projects be left out? If it’s consent of 80% affected, there are to be a number of manipulations that people will have to face. Experiences of 70% consent in Slum Rehabilitation Scheme in Mumbai are quite telling”.
Opposing land bank instead of returning land to the farmers in case it remains unutilized for a specific period of time, NAPM said, “The ownership over the land is of those who till it and if not used and unutilized then it must be returned to the owners or distributed amongst the project affected people. We oppose any feature which will promote land bank, since it has promoted large scale acquisition in the past and later illegally transferred the same land to corporations for real estate and other purposes.
On the question of retrospective application of the R&R provisions, NAPM thinks, “It needs to be noted that nearly 100 million people have been displaced since independence and with a dismal 17-20 percent rate of resettlement and rehabilitation we had suggested that not only the retrospective application of the provisions of the new act but a National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Commission be established to deal with the claims of the projected affected people from various projects. Also the Land Acquisition Act 1894 needs to be repealed completely;, two acts dealing with the land acquisition will bring in legal challenges and also negate the whole purpose of bringing in a new legislation”.
On the crucial issue of R&R, NAPM feels the Bill’s provisions “don't stand up to livelihood based R&R, it merely promotes the principle of cash compensation”. It underlines, “It will be a retrogressive step since it negates the land and employment based R&R as mandated in the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award, and various other projects. The proposed provisions of compensating employment with money and high rates for land acquired will only lead to speculative land market and will destroy the fragile economy of the rural hinterland which will lead to further urban migration.”
Finally, NAPM feels, the Bill totally excludes the urban areas, where there is no land acquisition, but eviction, brutal and unjust, for any and every elitist real estate development to infrastructure without guaranteeing right to shelter, right to life and livelihood. “The only provision is to compensate with 20% of developed land for land owning families in urbanisation projects, which is not with regard to the cases where land belongs to the government or private entities but people are evicted. We demand a separate section or a separate Act for the millions of the urban persons and urban land from getting misappropriated.”

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