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Andhra land acquisition law passed under World Bank "direction" to build capital Amravati, as land pooling system fails

By Our Representative
Passed in order to "expedite" land acquisition for the new Andhra Pradesh capital Amravati after the state government's "land pooling" scheme has come under stress, the recent amendment Bill, passed by the State Legislative Assembly tweaking crucial provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013, is allegedly in line with the "directions" of the Doing Business Report of the World Bank.
A civil society statement, signed by 46 organizations, has said that the Doing Business Report recommends the dilution of land acquisition procedure and other regulatory ‘bottlenecks’ in order to enhance "investments, considering it as one of the prerequisites "to improve its ranking on the Ease of Doing Business at the behest of international financial institutions".
"The amendments open the doors to all kinds of projects, violating the purpose of public purpose", the statement, signed, among others, by the National Alliance of People’s Movements, the All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP), Narmada Bachao Andolan, Samata, Mines Minerals and People, says, adding, they particularly undermine LARR Act's social impact assessment, need for consent by 70% landowners are circumvented.
Assented by the President of India, the amendment, says the civil society statement, "empowers the district collector to pass an award for acquiring land after taking consent of the interested person without making an enquiry", calling the amendments "an insult to people who hard fought to secure progressive provisions in the LARR Act, 2013, weakening people’s power to challenge illegal and unjust forced acquisition of land."
Pointing out that amendments "empower the state and corporations to infringe upon people’s rights over natural resources", the statement underlines, *In the Amravati Capital City project in Andhra Pradesh, this amendment will only embolden the efforts of the state in going ahead with the project, which involves coercion and intimidation in acquiring farmland despite pending cases, injunctions by courts and people’s protests."
It adds, "This is an attempt by the state to legitimise the illegal and unjust actions, and we strongly condemn it. As is being widely perceived, the inability of the state to acquire lands through its questionable ‘land pooling’ scheme in the case of Amaravati, in fact, triggered the proposal to amend the LARR Act, 2013."
The statement further says, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has already approved lending to the Govt. of Andhra Pradesh government for the Amaravati Capital City Project, and the project is being "co-financed by the World Bank", even as "farmers affected by the land-pooling scheme have taken up "their grievances with the complaint mechanism of the World Bank in the absence of compliance mechanisms and policies of AIIB".
The statement adds, "Whether in Amaravati or elsewhere in the country, the worst-affected due to diversion of large swathes of fertile farmlands to corporate entities, non-farm purposes, etc. would be tenant cultivators, women farmers, fisher people, forest-dwelling adivasis, especially in scheduled areas, and landless Dalits, on a massive scale, whose rights and interests the State and the President has an obligation to protect."

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