Skip to main content

Congress "lackadaisical": Gujarat farmer body says it failed to oppose new state land acquisition laws

Dholera region, a target of land acquisition in Gujarat
By Our Representative
In a surprise move, the powerful Gujarat farmers' body Jameen Adhikar Aandolan Gujarat (JAAG), has taken strong exception to the main opposition party in the state, Congress, for being completely “lackadaisical in discharging” its “constitutional duty” of standing farmers against the state government latest land acquisition moves.
This is for the first time that JAAG has made such a serious charge against the Congress.
Recently, JAAG emerged as perhaps the most important opponent of the special investment regions (SIRs) being set up across Gujarat, especially “rampant” land acquisition taking place in the garb of SIR by applying the town planning law. JAAG's struggle in North Gujarat two years ago forced he Gujarat government to downsize the SIR in Mandal-Bhechraji region from 46 villages to a mere eight.
More recently, the Gujarat government sought to acquire land for the 900 sq km Dholera SIR in Ahmedabad district, next to the Gulf of Khambhat, by applying the town planning law's provision, which allows the state to corner 50 per cent of farmers' land in the name of building infrastructure. JAAG's intervention has forced the authorities to put off the “backdoor” land acquisition, and stop the decision to remove Dholera SIR from the Narmada canal command area map.
The JAAG-Congress rift is particularly intriguing as it comes in in the wake of Congress' statements for land acquisition moves in the state assembly and outside. It has come against the backdrop of one of the two most important JAAG leaders, Lalji Desai, switching over to the Congress. The other important JAAG leader is Sagar Rabari. There is a distinct view that ever since Desai's exist, JAAG's campaigns against land acquisition have begun to see a lull.
A JAAG statement, forwarded to kafila.org, a left-wing blog site run from Delhi, says, while it condemned the Gujarat government for recent amendments to state land laws, it is “also mindful of the fact that the opposition (in this case the Congress) has a constitutional duty and people’s mandate to raise its voice whenever it perceives the government to be straying from its pro-people orientation.” The statement, interestingly, was not distributed to several of Gujarat's mediapersons.
JAAG's statement underlines, “The opposition Congres has a constitutional duty and people’s mandate to raise its voice whenever it perceives the government to be straying from its pro-people orientation. Sadly, we find the present Congress dispensation to be entirely laidback and lackadaisical in discharging this duty. We condemn the opposition in equal terms in failing to uphold its constitutional duty and in making the voice of the farmer, and the poor heard in the Assembly.”
JAAG's statement says that the Gujarat state assembly passed “controversial amendments” to four existing legislations – the Gujarat Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948, te Saurashtra Gharkhed, Tenancy Settlement and Agricultural Lands Ordinance, 1949, the Gujarat Tenancy and Agricultural Lands (Vidarbha Region and Kutch Area) Act, 1958, the Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling Act, 1960.”
“The thrust of all amendments in the four legislations is to make transfer of land to industry and industrialists as easy as possible and at minimum cost to the purchasing industry/industrialist by legalizing any and all (past) illegalities on their part”, the statement says, without specifying how. It adds, “Not only that, pending legal cases are also to be deemed to have lapsed, bringing into question whether the phrase ‘rule of law’ holds meaning any longer.”
The statement says, “While deciding legality/validity or otherwise of questionable transactions, the government official (Collector/Mamlatdar) have been granted arbitrary powers of the highest degree. The government is also, by law, making it mandatory for itself to ‘rescue’ a rogue industrialist who fails in his/her undertaking to put up an industry and to compensate him/her ‘adequately and appropriately’.”
While the statement refuses to point towards what are its objections to the  amendments, and whether they are meant to undermine LAA, 2013, promulgated by the previous UPA government at the Centre, it comes at a time when Niti Ayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya, a well-known pro-Narendra Modi economist, has asked states to make their own laws so that LAA, 2013 is set aside.
"Tamil Nadu has a different law law in place since January 5, 2015. It has been almost 7-8 months, very few people knew about it. Tamil Nadu has, in fact, amended the 2013 Act and it applies to their state," Panagariya has said in an interview to CNBC TV18. Calling LAA, 2013 “draconian” as it would take 4-5 years for acquisition for public purpose, he insisted, "Other states could follow the same strategy".
When contacted, Shaktisinh Gohil, a senior Congress leader, told Counterview that the Congress' opposition to the Gujarat amendments clearly suggest why these had been made. “We have made our position very clear. Amendments are meant to allow industrialists to acquire land, which for years has been set aside for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other weaker sections. Most of such land was acquired applying the land ceiling law, but never transferred, but now the Gujarat government wants to give it to industry on a platter”, he insisted.
The JAAG statement has been reportedly signed by veteran human rights lawyer Girish Patel, well-known social scientists Achyut Yagnik and Ghanshaym Shah, environmentalists Anand Mazgaonkar, Krishnakant and Rohit Prajapati, trade union activist Ashim Roy, women's rights activists Swati Desai and Trupti Shah, JAAG leader Sagar Rabari, among others.

Comments

TRENDING

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

"Misleading" satellite images being shared on Balakot surgical strike on Jaish camp

By Dr Vinay Kate*
With every passing day more questions are being raised about the surgical strike India did in Balakot as a response to Pulwama attacks. So far the Indian media has claimed mass casulaty of 300+ terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad in this surgical strike, but there is hardly any report from foreign media about the same.

Extreme repression, corporate loot, cultural genocide "characterise" India's tribal belt

Counterview Desk
As Lok Sabha polls approach, there is considerable ferment in one section of the population -- India's Adivasis, forming about 8.6 per cent of India's population. Things became particularly critical following the February 14, 2019 Supreme Court order, allegedly seeking to evict lakhs of tribals from their forest lands.

Industry in India "barely growing", export growth 0%, whither moral anchors?

Counterview Desk
In a sharp critique of the Modi government, the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), one of world renowned economist Prof Kaushik Basu, who is Professor of Economics and Carl Marks Professor of International Studies at Cornell University, has told students at the IIM-A’s 54th Annual Convocation on March 16, 2019 that they have a “special responsibility” on their shoulders, “the responsibility to reject narrow sectarianism, uphold scientific thinking, openness to new ideas, and freedom of speech.”

Gujarat model? Industrial effluents "invade" borewells, discharge coloured water in farms

By Rajiv Shah
In a major embarrassment for Gujarat model, of the 21 samples taken by officials of the state government's environmental watchdog Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) in two villages of Vadodara district and analyzed by its laboratory in Gandhinagar, the state capital, to find out pollution level in groundwater, 16 were assessed as highly contaminated – these were, in fact, found to be discharging reddish, brownish, reddish, or yellowish water.

Refugees as criminals? US govt report blames Amit Shah for calling Bangladeshis termites

Counterview Desk
The chapter “Freedom of Movement” of the US State Department’s “India 2018 Human Rights Report”, released recently, has criticized BJP chief Amit Shah for terming alleged Bangladeshis who may be in Assam as “termites”, because their names were struck down from the list of National Register of Citizens, under preparation in the state.
Pointing out that four million residents were excluded from Assam’s final draft list, leading to “uncertainty over the status of these individuals, many of whose families had lived in the state for several generations”, the report regrets, the Indian law does not even contain the term “refugee,” treating refugees like Rohingiyas as “any other foreigners.”
“Undocumented physical presence in the country is a criminal offense. Persons without documentation were vulnerable to forced returns and abuse”, the report says.
Text of the Freedom of Movement chapter: The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, a…

Congress would win just 9 of 26 Lok Sabha seats: Gujarat Assembly segment-wise analysis

By Rajiv Shah
Even as the Congress plans its first working committee meet in Gujarat on February 28 after an almost 58 year gap, there is reason to wonder what is in store for India’s grand old party in a state which has been long been a BJP bastion – in fact ever since mid-1990s. Ahead of the then assembly polls in late 2012, talking with me, a senior Gujarat Congress leader, currently Rajya Sabha MP, frankly said he saw no reason why Congress would win.

"Pro-corporate" Supreme Court order on FRA would further marginalize Adivasis

By VS Roy David, JP Raju*
For millions of Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers February 13, 2019 will go down in history as the day of apocalypse. This is like the proverbial Black Friday where millions of most marginalized people of India were ordered by malicious anti-people draconian Supreme Court order depriving them the life and livelihood by evicting them from their habitats.

Financial inclusion? Not micro-loans; India's poor "need" investment in health, education

By Moin Qazi*
India has grown into a global powerhouse. Its economy is soaring but the picture on the ground is still quite arid. The green shoots that you see are only a patch of its landscape. Most Indians are hapless victims of inequity. India is one country where intense poverty abounds in the shadow of immense wealth.

India, Pakistan told to eliminate nuclear weapons: N-war "would kill" 2 billion

Counterview Desk
The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a non-partisan federation of national medical organizations in 64 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens, claiming to share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation, has warned that “an unprecedented global catastrophe” awaits the globe against the backdrop of warmongering in India and Pakistan.