Rule by Decree: Narendra Modi’s “Achhe Din” Have Come

January 1, 2015

[The Union government has recently decided to pass ordinances on amending three different vital legislations, on allowing FDI in the insurance sector, coal block allotment and the Land Acquisition Act 2013. All the ordinances are to push through pro-corporate and anti-people policies avoiding a discussion in parliament, showing that Modi’s promise of “good days” basically portended the destruction of democracy. As opposition against these anti-democratic and anti-people move gain strength, we will put up statements and articles to help consolidate the opposition. Towards this we have republished an article by Justice Rajinder Sachar against the moves of the last UPA government to pass ordinances during its last days in power, which appeared in the PUCL Bulletin of April 2014. – Ed. ]

3. Endangering People, Banks, the Environment and the Economy – Campaign for Survival and Dignity
2. Statement on Ordinance from Peoples’ Movements
1. Rule by Ordinance Undemocratic: No Other Parliamentary Democracy Has It – Rajinder Sachar (April 2014)

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http://www.forestrightsact.com/statements-and-news/142-endangering-people-banks-the-environment-and-the-economy

Friends,

The government has rammed through an ordinance on the Land Acquisition Act, and is once again trying to dilute the Forest Rights Act.

What do these planned changes actually say?

State government officials will decide on projects, with no guidelines and no legal requirements: Much attention has been focused on the exemption from the Social Impact Assessment, but the ordinance doesn’t just do that. It exempts practically all projects from section 8 of the Act.

Hence there is no requirement to show that the project will actually be beneficial; no requirement to show that only the required land is being acquired; etc. The Collector gets to decide everything – and no one can even challenge that decision, since the law doesn’t provide any ground for doing so. This is exactly what the Environment Ministry is trying to do to the Forest Rights Act.

All decisions are to be based purely on what the company claims – without any objective information: Forest clearances, environment clearances, and now land acquisition – in everything the government is actively trying to prevent any kind of objective basis for making a decision. In forest clearances, they want to proceed without bothering to find out – from the gram sabhas, the legal authorities – whether people have rights or not. In environment clearances, the TSR Subramaniam committee companies should be treated with “utmost good faith”, and in any case environmental impact assessments are paid for by the company. And now, in the Land Acquisition Act, there’s no need for a social impact assessment. How can anyone rationally decide on a project without knowing who and what it will actually impact? Do reforms consist of enabling irrational decisions?

No one can be held accountable: Rather than holding the head of the department accountable, the new ordinance reiterates that government officials should not be prosecuted without the sanction of the State government. If a company doesn’t use the land, no problem, the government can just arbitrarily decide how much time it should have. If a company lies about environment impact, says the TSR Subramaniam Committee, just ask it to pay a penalty – and go on with the project. Never punish anyone, except the people who lose their lands, homes and often their lives.

Those affected will be denied their rights, even if they are protected by law: The one taboo is, of course, to ask those who will lose most. Now consent has been removed from the Land Acquisition Act for most projects. There is an ongoing effort to bypass the requirement for consent prior to takeover of forest land in the Forest Rights Act. In the environment clearance process, more and more projects are being exempted from public hearings.

The Confederation of Indian Industries claims this is “simple and transparent” land acquisition. How is a closed door process decided by bureaucrats and companies transparent?

Who Will This Benefit?

Consider some facts: in both Rajasthan and Orissa, the CAG found that most land acquired was not used, and companies illegally mortgaged land for taking loans while sitting on empty plots. In November, the CAG reported that about half the land acquired for SEZs is vacant and the operational zones had dismally failed to meet any of their targets. A recent NDTV investigation found that most States have acquired far more land than they are using. So who is this law for?

Not those who receive compensation: The government has made much of the fact that it did what was already required – extended the compensatioon provisions of the Act to the earlier exempt statutes. But this “compensation” is not based on the real value of land – it is based on the recorded rate of land sale. As anyone who has ever bought property in India knows, the recorded rate is far below the real value of land – and merely increasing it by three or four times is unlikely to bring it anywhere near the land’s real value.

Not legal rights holders and those who use land for their livelihood: The vast majority of people who are affected by a project will effectively get nothing now, since there is no way for the authorities to know who they are without a Social Impact Assessment. The illegal violation of the Forest RIghts Act makes this situation worse.

Not real infrastructure: By making it easier to bypass the law and railroad projects, this amendment will only mean that genuine projects will be ignored by officials in favour of get rich quick schemes by speculators. After all, without any information, how is even an honest official supposed to decide which project is actually truly beneficial? Besides, people do not take the loss of their lands and rights lying down. At least one quarter of the country’s districts are witnessing protests and conflicts over land takeover.

Not the banks: The London-based India Study Group has produced a detailed briefing on why encouraging fraudulent and speculative projects is the real reason for India’s bad loans crisis. Protests and litigation also result in banks never getting repaid – while promoters escape scot free.

Not the infrastructure sector: RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has pointed out that encouraging fraudulent promoters and projects has raised interest rates for the entire sector. This amendment will make this situation worse.

For this government, “reforms” means making bureaucrats unaccountable, encouraging fraudulent projects, going soft on bad loans, and handing over land, resources, workers and public money to a few big companies. But, like all autocrats, they fail to realise that the struggle goes on, and they don’t always win.

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

9873657844, www.forestrightsact.com

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Ordinance on Land Act Unconstitutional and Anti People

People’s Movements to Organise Against its Passage in Parliament

Every Forced Acquisition on Ground Will Face Stiff Resistance

Today’s Cabinet decision approving the Ordinance amending the Land Acquisition Act 2013, even before the law has been actually implemented on the ground is completely unacceptable and reminds us of the anti democratic and authoritarian streak of this government. In six months of its existence NDA government has already used the Ordinance route three times. 

We fail to understand what is the Emergency at this moment that, NDA government has to take the Ordinance route. This is only being done as a measure to benefit the Corporate Houses and nothing else. 20 Lakh Crore investments are not stuck because of the new land act, since the law has only been in existence for one year. 

The land acquisition act, 1894 was amended precisely to resolve the conflict due to forcible land acquisition, give farmers their due and meet the needs of the industrial development. Today’s decision will only increase that conflict since large scale forcible land acquisition for the industrial corridors will be norm, Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor alone has plan for acquisition of 3,90,000 Hectares of land. Industrial Corridors, big infrastructure projects, dams etc cause the maximum displacement and environmental damage and the new land Act was to address situations arising out of that. 

Amendments to Fulfill Corporate Agenda

We strongly oppose this move and believe that this government is completely anti-poor and is only interested in pushing forward the corporate agenda. It is a Ambani-Adani Sarkaar – a Company Sarkaar, which is out to sell the democratic rights of the people and democratic traditions of law making in the Parliament in the name of business.  The new Act was framed after consulting all the stake holders and over a period of seven years after going through two Parliamentary Standing committees (2007 & 2009), both headed by senior BJP leaders, Shri Kalyan Singh and Smt. Sumitra Mahajan. 

Mr. Modi has displayed least patience for the parliamentary traditions and often remained silent on the key issues concerning the nation and blamed opposition for non-functioing of the Parliament. Matters concerning the lives of millions of the farmers in this country can’t and shouldn’t be decided by mere Ordinance. These are matters of grave importance and need thorough debate and discussion in this democracy. BJP when in opposition had opposed the Ordinances for law making and now they are doing exactly that, how shameful!

Section 105, Consent and SIA Clause

The government is claiming that the decision is not anti farmer since they are not touching the monetray compensation, but the issue was not only compensation. A piece of land has an interest from many sections workers, share croppers – other than the land owners and they all get affected by any acquisition. So, the changes in the consent clause for acquisition of the PPP and Private projects will impact everyone and not only the land owners. Theexplanation that an Ordinance became necessary to deal with matters arising out of the Section 105 of the Act is completely false. We believe, it is not only misleading but again obfuscating what the Act mandates. As per the Act, the government was to bring a Notification in the Parliament in year 2014 to extend the provisions of the compensation and R&R to the people affected by land acquisition carried through the 13 central acts, as mentioned in Fourth Schedule. 

The dilution of the need for the consent and conducting of the Social Impact Assessment for all the projects is completely uncalled for and will only make matters worse. These two provisions are central to addressing the issue of ‘forced land acquisition’ and ‘resulting impoverishment” to the communities. 

Section 24, Retrospective Application of the new Act

Even as we wait for the full details of the Ordinance, we would like to say that the 2013 Act provided relief to so many farmers where land was forcibly acquired or land was not utilised or adequate compensation not paid. The Ordinance is changing that which is completely anti farmer. We all know that there are nearly 10 Crore people displaced by various projects since independence and this government rather than providing any relief is only concerned about the needs of the industry. 

We Will Oppose its Passage in the Parliament

It remains a fact that intense struggles are going on in various states across the country around the issues related to land acquisition, displacement, development plans and projects. The farmers, fishworkers, labourers, artisans, facing uprootment from not just their socio-cultural environs but also livelihoods, are compelled to get united and raise their voices against unjust displacement pushed by Modi Sarkaar.  The resistance will only become much more vocal now. People’s movements from across the country oppose this Ordinance and will organise demonstrations across the country this week and will ensure that resolutions are passed in the Gram Sabhas on the Republic Day that no forcible land acquisition will be allowed by the government for profit and private corporations. 

Medha Patkar, Yogini Khanolkar, Meera – Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); 

Prafulla Samantara – Lok Shakti Abhiyan

 Lingraj Azad – Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, NAPM, Odisha; 

Dr. Sunilam, Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti

 Meera – Narmada Bachao Andolan,NAPM, MP; 

Suniti SR, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe – NAPM, Maharashtra; 

Gabriel Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN; 

C R Neelkandan – NAPM Kerala; 

P Chennaiah  

Ramakrishnan Raju – NAPM Andhra Pradesh, 

Arundhati Dhuru, Richa Singh – NAPM, UP; 

Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union & Rukmini V P, Garment Labour Union, NAPM, Karnataka; 

Vimal Bhai – Matu Jan sangathan

Jabar Singh, NAPM, Uttarakhand; 

Anand Mazgaonkar, Krishnakant -Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat; 

Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan – Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan

Mahendra Yadav – Kosi Navnirman Manch, NAPM Bihar; 

Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar, NAPM Haryana; 

Kailash Meena, NAPM Rajasthan; 

Amitava Mitra & Sujato Bhadra, NAPM West Bengal; 

B S Rawat – Jan Sangharsh Vahini

Rajendra Ravi, Madhuresh Kumar and Kanika Sharma – NAPM, Delhi

 For details contact : 9818905316 | email : napmindia@gmail.com

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Rule by Ordinance Undemocratic: No Other Parliamentary Democracy Has It

Rajindar Sachar

There was recently a frantic race among Congressmen how to persuade the President of India to issue a couple of ordinances because the young master, Rahul Gandhi, desired it. It is a different matter that none of the proposed laws were opposed by the Opposition. Had the House managers done their homework, Parliament could have passed some of the pending Bills, including the Grievances Redress Bill and the whistleblowers Bill. T he self-flagellation and ego of the Congress combined with antics of the Opposition turned everything topsy-turvy. The Telangana Bill, with both major political parties indulging in political maneuvering, was passed by voice vote, embellished by a peppery spray and a shameless failure of live T V coverage of the proceedings of the House (one does not yet know the villain – the government has not held an inquiry).

And pray, how come Rahul is so insistent on the ordinance route when in the matter of disqualification of convicted legislators, he had publicly shamed the Prime Minister and his government by tearing the ordinance!

Can the President accept an ordinance when both Houses are not going to meet before the general election in May 2014 and there is going to be a new Lok Sabha? It would amount to shredding the Constitution if the President were to approve the ordinances, which in law were never deliberated by the members of the Lok Sabha. Are the newly elected Lok Sabha members expected to initiate their work with old Bills? I have not much objection to the broad contours of the Bills – I myself have been a public signatory to a statement demanding that before the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, the Bills on public grievances and whistleblowers be passed. But somehow it did not happen. With time having run out, democracies cannot resort to devious methods.

I am aghast at the drama of ordinances for all these weeks in the Press. If the government was genuinely keen on having these Bills passed, what stopped it from extending the session by a few days? Unless the ruling party was maneuvering to acclaim Rahul Gandhi as the sole Mr. Clean of India, in the melodramatic repetition of the 1940 movie of Hollywood decades back, namely “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and the more recent Bollywood version equally well crafted and starring Amitabh Bachchan, “Main Azad Hoon” – I fail to understand why his followers did not insist on extending the session for a couple of days to pass these Bills which certainly would have received no opposition. Of course, if the real intent was to seek a mileage, then unfortunately the move has backfired.

Even if the President had been persuaded to issue the ordinances, these would have had no validity or life and the new Lok Sabha would have to pass them afresh. Was this fuss worth even a penny?

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