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Opposition to land acquisition bill very wide, extend time for representing to parliamentary panel: NAPM

Medha Parkar
By Our Representative
The National Alliance for People's Movements (NAPM), the apex body of tens of people's organizations across India, has asked SS Ahluwalia, chairperson, Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), for extending the deadline for receiving inputs on Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment Bill, 2015). The deadline for getting responses to the controversial bill ends on June 8.
A letter signed by well-known social activist Medha Parkar, who leads NAPM, and others, says that “After the consistent pressure and opposition, the NDA government has referred the land bill to the JPC, but a two week notice to make submissions is extremely insufficient."
Pointing out that the two week notice to make submissions is "is extremely insufficient for many groups and mass organisations to detail threadbare and bring out their comments, which requires more time", it said, "The majority of Indian citizens affected by land acquisition live in rural areas, so it is necessary and important to hold consultations to discuss the current draft in rural areas, especially where local communities have been affected."
"We understand that the Committee wants to complete its deliberations at the earliest; however, the matter of this importance can’t be dealt away in such hurry. We believe that 2013 Act, amended after 114 years, and having vetted by two Parliamentary Standing Committees and debated over seven years inside and outside Parliament should be given more time for deliberation", the NAPM said.
Pointing out that "many groups and mass organisations" are coming forward "to give detail inputs and bring out their comments”, the NAPM said, "They have demanded that the Committee extend the time line at least by a month, till July 8. A copy of the letter has been sent to all members of the Committee as well as to Minister of Rural Development Birender Singh
In addition, the NAPM suggests, the Committee should "reach out to farmers and workers of the country and hold wider consultations, public meetings and public hearings on the Bill, especially where local communities have been affected."
Insisting that this should be done to gather "past or present experiences of land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement", the letter said, the Committee should especially meet people in "Kalinga Nagar and Dhinkia to Narmada, Sompetta, Raigarh, Madurai, Mundra, Kanhar, Bhatta Parsaul, Jashpur, Dholera, etc."
NAPM has aligned with several farmers'-workers' groups, left-affiliated Kisan Sabhas and Khet Mazdoor Unions, and formed Bhumi Adhikaar Andolan. In a statement in the wake of the letter to Ahluwalia, it said, it is in the "process of mobilising farmers and workers opposing forcible acquisitions" in order to "suggest changes to the 2015 Bill."
Insisting that even the 2013 Act, passed by the UPA, should be made more stringent in favour of the people, the NAPM said, the need is to "bring in more progressive provisions, like extending the consent provisions to government projects or Social Impact Assessment for irrigation projects among others."
Bhumi Adhikaar Andolan organised mass demonstrations on February 24 and May 5 at Sansad Marg and and vowed to oppose what it called "corporate-led changes to the 2013 Act." The letter to Ahluwalia is based on a newspaper advertisement on May 24 inviting submissions from the public at large till June 8.

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