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Gujarat's land acquisition amendments bypass Parliament, undermine democratic processes, says NAPM note

Gujarat farmers protesting against land acquisition in Dholera SIR in December 2015
By Our Representative
A detailed note, released at a civil society-sponsored national-level consultation, held in Delhi on amendments to the Central land acquisition Act of 2013, has accused the Gujarat government of shockingly removing Parliament’s role while seeking to invoke urgency clause for acquiring land.
Calling it a “mockery” of the democracy process, the note says, ruling out the role of Parliament in the urgency clause, as mentioned in Section 40 of the Central Act, “reflects the continued tendencies to undermine democracy and established procedures”.
It adds, this is exactly what the state government did while passing the Special Investment Region (SIR) Act, 2009, which allows acquisition of 40% farmers’ land in the name of building township infrastructure.
The note says, through the SIR Act the state government is “trying to use land pooling for creating the Dholera Smart City, 150 kilometers from Ahmedabad”, adding, “92,200 ha from 22 villages belonging to 50,000 people from a strong agricultural community are notified for land pooling.”
Pointing out that Gujarat has also “facilitated the conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes by diluting the clearance processes for such conversion”, the note, prepared under the auspices of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), analyses five states – Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand – which have brought in amendments to the Central land acquisition Act, 2013.
“Most of them have brought the amendments retrospectively in effect from January 1, 2014 nullifying any application of the Central Act in their state”, the note says, adding, these states have exempting “large categories of projects from consent provisions, Social Impact Assessment, taking up objections, local bodies participation, etc.”
These are “primarily linear category projects like industrial corridors, expressways, highways etc.”, the note says, adding, are exemption categories also include “expert appraisal processes, public hearing, objections, safeguard provisions” related to food security.
Further to this, the note says, making district collector a sole authority to make enquiry to their satisfaction has led to a “dangerous trend to suppress people’s voices”, leading to “widespread corruption.”
Strongly supporting the Central Act -- Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RFCTLARR) Act, 2013 -- which “tried to address the historical injustice and made provisions to return unutilized land back to the people when it remained unutilized for more than five years”, the note says, “It also talked for fresh award if the compensation to majority of affected people not paid after declaration of award.”
However, it underlines, “In almost all state amendments, it is tried to either extend the period of making the acquisition void and changing the payment of compensation to beneficiaries by declaration of award and depositing the compensation with the court or the State treasury”, adding, “Andhra Pradesh and Telangana not only diluted the Central Act’s provisions, but also brought provisions of voluntary land acquisition under which they can enter into mutual agreement with landowners and payment of lumpsum amount to other affected persons for resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R).”
“Tamil Nadu has gone much ahead and brought fifth schedule to exclude land acquisition for industrial purposes in the state”, the note says, adding, it has, in fact, “silently brought out the exemption to the whole land acquisition for industrial purpose… It’s a complete denial of taking consent from people, providing R&R, participation of local bodies in approval and rejection of projects etc.”
Referring to Amravati, the new capital city for Andhra Pradesh, the note says, the state “has used this model for acquiring more than 12,200 hectares (ha) of prime agricultural land on the banks of River Krishna, only for core capital city which alone will displace more than 90,000 marginal farmers, lease holders, agricultural workers and other unorganized workers.”
“They comprise 80% of the total population. The remaining 20% landowners will get residential plots, commercial plots and yearly compensation. Later, the Capital Region will expand to 706,800 ha displacing more than 50 lakh people”, it adds.
The note says, in order to “ease the transfer of people’s land to corporates”, the amendments by states have given private negotiations “a further push”. Thus, “the limit of acquisition of land through private negotiation with owners of land in different states is alarmingly kept high in which the R&R will also not be applicable.”
Among important civil rights leaders who participated in the Delhi consultation included Hannan Mollah of the All-India Kisan Sabha, Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, Sudha Bhardwaj of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, top social and environmental activist Prafulla Samantara, Ashok Chaudhary of the All India Union of Forest Working People, and T Peter of the National Fishworkers’ Forum.

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