People’s Movements oppose the possible re-introduction of the land acquisition and resettlement-rehabilitation bill

August 20, 2010

August 20, 2010

The National Alliance of People’s Movements, along with many other movements who came together under the banner of Sangharsh, today opposed the renewed attempts by the UPA government to re-introduce the lapsed Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2009 and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill, 2009 in the wake of the protests by farmers against unjust acquisition of land in Aligarh, Agra, and other districts in Uttar Pradesh.

The agitation by farmers in Aligarh and elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh are not isolated incidents. Struggles against unjust land acquisition have been intensifying across the country. The only response of the government has been a brutal suppression of these struggles using its police force. In July this year, the Government of Andhra Pradesh fired at, killing three persons, and lathi-charged hundreds of peaceful protesters in the Sompeta Mandal of Srikakulm district, who were resisting the forcible and unjust acquisition of land for the 2640 MW thermal plant by Nagarjuna Construction Company Ltd. Earlier this week private goons of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd. beat-up villagers who were peacefully protesting the forcible acquisition of land, in Tapranga, Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh, by the company for coal mining.

The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill were tabled by the UPA government during the winter session of 2007 and just a day before the monsoon session of 2009 ended. Introduced purportedly to strike a balance between the need for land for development and other purposes and protecting the interests of the persons whose lands are statutorily acquired, both the Bills in fact facilitate the handing over the land, rivers, forests, minerals to the big corporations, both public and private, for mining, big dams, thermal, nuclear and other power projects, SEZs, etc., without effectively addressing the fundamental issues that have been raised by the protests that are raging across the country. If enacted, both the Bills will have far reaching impact on the lives on millions of people across the country, their livelihood and access to natural resources—land, water and forests.

The issues of both Land Acquisition and Resettlement and Rehabilitation have been discussed and debated for several years now. The government has brought forth several policies, especially on the latter issue. However no process of thorough stock taking has yet been initiated by the government. In fact even the most basic information, which is crucial for determining the areas and direction in the laws and policies that need to be formulated and amended, is not available.

Further, these Bills were introduced in complete negation of the consultation with people’s movements and groups at both the national and regional level. These consultations culminated in a draft Bill which was passed by the National Advisory Council in 2005. Since then the draft remained pending with the Central Cabinet on the excuse that there were questions and barriers to be faced and clarified, before it could get its sanction.

The NAPM demands that the UPA government desists from re-introducing and enacting these two Bills in the existing form in the Parliament. We understand there is a need for a comprehensive legislation, but anything done in haste will prove detrimental to the cause of millions who have been already displaced and those to be displaced. NAPM also demands that the UPA must:

1. NOT re-introduce the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2009 and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill, 2009 in their current form in the Parliament

2. ENACT a National Development, Displacement and Rehabilitation Act based on the Draft National Development, Displacement, and Rehabilitation Policy passed by the National Advisory council in 2006 and incorporating the progressive elements of the Standing Committee on Rural Development (2007-08) enunciating the principle of least displacement, just rehabilitation and a decentralized development planning based on Article 243 of the Constitution, PESA 1996 and Forest Rights Act, 2006.

3. ISSUE a White Paper on all the land acquisitions, displacement caused and rehabilitation completed since independence. The White Paper must also make public the extent of land utilized, unutilized and land acquired for public purpose but remains occupied by sick and non-functional industries and other infrastructure projects.

4. MAKE PUBLIC the details of the MoUs signed by the Government of India and the state Governments with different private and public corporations, companies and others, which have land acquisition requirements and hold public dialogue – especially with affected people.

5. DECLARE immediate moratorium on the acquisition of fertile, agricultural land and its diversion for non-agricultural purposes, in the wake of the rising protests against such acquisitions and growing concerns regarding food security in the country.

Signed: Medha Patkar, Ulka Mahajan, Suniti SR, P Chennaiah, Sandeep Pandey, Gabriele Dietrich, Sister Celia, Vimalbhai, Bhupendra Singh Rawat, Rajendra Ravi, Gautam Bandhyopadhyay, Anand Mazgaonkar, Madhuresh Kumar