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New threat to tribal farmers? Notification allows Maharashtra govt to take away tribal land without gram sabha nod

Medha Patkar with Ashok Shrimali
By Our Representative
A new danger awaits the rural areas under the influence of the proposed Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). If a recent Maharashtra government notification, a copy which is with Counterview, is any indication, it empowers the state government to acquire tribal land for industrial development without seeking any gram sabha nod.
Apprehensions have gone strong, similar notifications may be issued by Gujarat and Rajasthan governments, undermining tribals' forest rights under existing laws, including the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, which make consultation with tribal gram sabhas mandatory.
The notification, which is dated November 14, says, "In villages in Scheduled Areas of the State of Maharashtra, no sanction for purchase of land by mutual agreement, shall be necessary" if such land is "required in respect of implementation of the vital Government projects", adding, the amount of compensation to be paid for such purchase should be "arrived at in a fair and transparent manner."
The expression "vital Government project", the notification says, "means project undertaken by the Central or State Government relating to national or state highways, railways or other multi-modal transport projects, electricity transmission lines, roads, gas or water supply pipelines canals or of similar nature."
These projects, says the notification, could be undertaken by "the state government, a statutory body or an agency owned and controlled by the Central Government or State Government, or a Government company incorporated under the provisions of the Companies Act, 2013 or any other law relating to companies for the time being in force."
Referring to the notification, top social activist Medha Patkar told media in Ahmedabad, the DMIC proposes to take away huge areas, especially of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan, adversely affecting farmers. She sqid, about 60% of the DMIC passes through Gujarat. Farmers', including tribals farmers', livelihood in the entire stretch is in danger. As many as 11 industrial zones have been planned in the DMIC area.
Explained Ashok Shrimali, general secretary, mines, minerals & People (mm&P), a well-known advocacy group, the notification is applicable to the tribal areas, whose large parts in the three states come under DMIC. "We believe the notification, issued in the name of the Maharashtra governor, has the nod of the Government of India. One cannot rule out similar notifications for Gujarat and Rajasthan."
Speaking as representative of the All-India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) -- which organised a Kisan Mukti Sansad (Farmers' Freedom Parliament) in Delhi on November 20, where a draft Farmer’s Freedom From Debt Bill, 2017, was announced, seeking complete loan waiver -- Patkar said, " The DMIC in Gujarat and the Narmada main canal overlap."
"While the canal network is not complete, huge amounts have been spent for laying down pipelines carrying Narmada waters for supply to industry. Crores of litres of water are going to corporates, when farmers are being deprived of irrigation water. Coca Cola gets 30 lakh litres of Narmada water per day, and about 60 lakh litres goes to automobile factories", Patkar alleged.
Patkar further said, things have gone difficult for the farmers and fisherfolk after the Narmada dam reached its full height, 128.68 metres. "No waters are flowing down the dam. As a result, for about 80-100 km downstream of the dam, the river has gone dry. Worse, sea ingress has accelerated for tens of kilometres, drying up agricultural areas."

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