Sangharsh demands government to ensure land rights

August 5, 2011


Sangharsh to UPA: Ensure Land Rights: Stop Land Acquisition and Displacement

Struggle for right to life and development intensifies

Gram Sabha Divas and Bhumi Haq Satyagraha before August 31st

Press Release : 5th August, 2011

Amidst heavy rains and scorching heat and worsening political climate, thousands of adivasis, farmers, labourers, forest dwellers, fish workers, hawkers, small traders, urban and rural poor from across fifteen states and over a hundred grass root movements across India stayed put at Jantar Mantar for the past three days, challenging the ‘aam aadmi ki sarkaar’ and demanded their right to life and development as also immediate end to the historical injustices inflicted upon the nature based, marginalized and disadvantaged communities.

From Assam to Gujarat and Himachal to Karnataka, India’s ‘aam janta’ rocked the national capital with a singular demand for a Comprehensive Development Planning Act, with inviolable decision making rights to the Gram Sabhas And Basti Sabhas. There was unanimity among people that although, decades of struggle has resulted in the Rural Development Ministry, accepting some of the significant demands of people’s movements, nonetheless, the new Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Bill, 2011 fails to address the core concerns flagged off by the struggling masses for years.

Some of the major concerns that remain are: abuse of the concept of ‘public purpose’, unreasonable minimum stipulation of 100 acres land for applicability of R&R, no guarantee of compulsory and time-bound land and livelihood based rehabilitation etc. The very approach to consider urbanization and industrialization as ‘inevitable’, but not social justice and equity as necessary is deeply disturbing and unacceptable. It is also widely felt that there is an imminent need for a complete halt to acquisition and diversion of farmland across the country (just multi-cropped irrigated land) or at least to the bare minimum, where inevitable for a real public purpose.

A delegation of senior Sangharsh leaders including Medha Patkar, Ashok Chowdhury, Vimalbhai, Dr. Sunilam, Anand Mazgaonkar and others shall meet Mr. Montek Singh Alhuwalia and other members of the Planning Commission later in the afternoon today. Alongside informing the Commission about the ground realities of defective ‘development’ models being pushed by it in virtual every sector, be it urban or rural development, energy, health, education, housing, PDS etc. the team shall also impress upon the Commission the ‘inevitability’ for recognizing the primacy and role of the Gram Sabhas / Basti Sabhas in the entire planning process, which must infact be the thrust of the XII Five Year Plan.

Mr. Singh had infact written to the Chief Secretaries of all the states before the XI Plan, that Gram sabha plans should be the basis for all development planning and called for such plans, but that never happened and the XI Plan was pushed, without this. This ‘disaster in planning’ should not be repeated once again. By inviting only a few NGOs and selected activists / researchers, the Govt. is doing enormous disservice to the people. Gram sabha are the direct democratic units, and as constitutional bodies, above the Planning Commission. This bottom-up approach must be reflected in the new Bill as well, which much move towards development planning and not acquisition of land and R&R alone. Sangharsh shall also present the alternative paradigm in urban housing, water, energy and other sectors, which must ensure equity and justice, beyond addressing climate change alone.

Earlier in the day, more than a thousand people marched upto to the Parliament Street, with banners and buntings, screaming slogans ‘Lok Sabha ke Upar Gram Sabha aur Basti Sabha’. Braving the police and the barricades, the gathering reflected the nation’s mood today: of anger and anguish against increasing inequality, injustices and corruption. As a mark of protest to the government’s weak anti-corruption law, the people broke up 10 pot-heads representing corruption in virtually every sphere of socio-economic life; such as education, rationing, health, forest rights, access to natural resources, livelihood and NREGA, corruption from the Panchayat to the Parliament; Janpad to the Judiciary. The present government draft does not cover the actual corruption and atrocities faced by the poor and downtrodden day in and day out and the Government must fulfill basic needs and ensure basic rights, without corruption, the women and men said. A Sankalp (Resolve) against corruption was also taken that the struggle for a true ‘Janta ka Lokpal’ Bill shall continue.

A delegation comprising Kavitha Srivastava, Clifton Rozario, Sr. Celia, Subhash Lomte, Kailash Awasya, and others met the Union Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, Mr. K.V. Thomas today afternoon and conveyed the collective concern on the Government’s proposed ‘Food Security Bill’ and demanded immediate universalization of the Public Distribution System and rejection of the ‘cash transfers’ approach. Campaigners of the Right to Food Campaign including Biraj Patnaik and Madhuri Krishnaswamy also spoke at the Dharna today, demanding a strong pro-poor and pro-people Food Security Bill.

Displaced by dams and canals, threatened by thermal and nuclear plants, evicted from urban bastis and hawking spaces, coastal development and tousirm projects, removed from forest lands; the real India posed tough questions and demanded justice. Tens of toiling women and men, both from villages and cities across India demanded a fair share and rights in return for their hard work entitlements to various schemes such as housing, rations, pensions etc. not as schemes but as non-negotiable rights. There was also a strong demand for effective implementation of the Unorganized Sector Workers Act.

Over the past two days, various delegations also met Environment Minister, Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan, Social Justice Minister, Mr. Mukul Wasnik, Rural Development Minister, Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Tribal Affairs Minister, K.C Deo, Urban Development Minister, Mr. Kamal Nath, amongst others and strongly placed before them the demand for a comprehensive development planning act (instead of piecemeal legislation) that would also link up the various functions these Ministers are presently performing. Sangharsh also demanded that the Rural Development Ministry call for a National and regional consultations on the Bills for receiving maximum feedback to the proposed draft.

The people shall return back to their states today evening, with a resolve to continue and intensify their struggle. In various states, Gram / Basti Sabha Divas and Bhumi Haq Satyagraha shall be observed in the coming weeks and resolutions passed demanding a comprehensive legislation and an end to displacement. Movements shall also hold consultations at various places, disseminate the Bill further and solicit widest possible response before the Bill is introduced in the Parliament. As people themselves rightly put it, the Government should minimize displacement and maximize development, and since it has failed to do so over the past 60 years, it is time for the State to give the Gram Sabhas and Basti Sabhas a real chance ‘develop’ and sustain their own lives.


Sangharsh is a process comprising of various people movements and organisations working against anti- people policies and working towards a just and egalitarian society.
Akhil Gogoi – Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Assam ; Arundhati Dhuru, Sandeep Pandey, J P Singh, Manesh Gupta – NAPM, UP ; Ashok Choudhary, Roma, Munnilal – National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers ; Bhupender Singh Rawat, Nanu Prasad – Jan Sangharsh Vahini & NAPM-Delhi ; Bilas Bhongade – Gosi Khurd Prakalp Grasht Sangharsh Samiti & NAPM – Maharashtra ; Chitranjan Singh – INSAF ; Dayamani Barla – Adivasi Moolwasi Asthitva Raksha Manch, Jharkhand ; Dr. Sunilam, Adv. Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, MP ; Gabriela Dietrich, Geeta Ramakrishnan – Pennuruimai Iyyakam & NAPM-Tamil Nadu ; Gautam Bandyopadhyaya – Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh ; Guman Singh, K Upmanyu – Him Niti Abhiyan, Himachal Pradesh ; Rajnish Gambhir, Ramchandra Rana – Tharu Adivasi Mahila Kisan Manch & NFFPFW, Lakhimpur Khiri, UP ; Manju Gardia – Nawa Chhattisgarh Mahila Sangathan & PSA – Chhattisgarh ; Mata Dayal, Rani – Birsa Munda Bhu Adhikar Manch & NFFPFW-MP ; Medha Patkar – Narmada Bachao Andolan & National Alliance of People’s Movements ; Prafulla Samantara – Loksakti Abhiyan & NAPM Odisha ; P Chennaiah, Ajay Kumar, Ramakrishna Raju, Sarasvathy Kavula – APVVU and NAPM Andhra Pradesh ; Rajendra Ravi – NAPM, Delhi ; Shanta Bhattacharya, Rajkumari Bhuyian – Kaimur Kshetra Mahila Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti & NFFPFW, UP ; Shaktiman Ghosh – National Hawkers Federation ; Simpreet Singh – Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan & NAPM-Mumbai ; Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union, NAPM – Karnataka ; Sunita Rani, Anita Kapoor – National Domestic Workers’ Union & NAPM, Delhi ; Ulka Mahajan, Suniti S R, Prasad Bhagwe – SEZ Virodhi Manch & NAPM – Maharashtra ; Vimalbhai – Matu Jan Sangathan & NAPM-Uttarakhand; Niketan Palkar, Tata Dharangrasth Sangharsh Samithi; Subhash Lomte – National Campaign Committee for Rural Workers; Janaklal Thakur, Chattisgarsh Mukti Morcha

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Sangharsh Unites Farmers, Labourers, Forest Workers and Adivasis
Thousands Demand National Development Planning Act
Call for a Reversal of 20 years of Failed Neo-Liberal Policies

New Delhi: August 3 – Over 4500 people from around 15 states univocally demanded immediate repeal of the archaic Land Acquisition Act 1894 (LAA) and replacement of it with a comprehensive National Development Planning Act. They vowed never to desert their land to the government or private builders.

They have joined the Sangharsh dharna at Jantar Mantar, where nearly 80 organisations from 15 states have come to raise their issues. They have invited Jairam Ramesh, the Minister of Rural Development, and the proponent the present draft of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill to come to the dharna and hear firsthand what the farmers, adivasis, dalits and other sections of the people who are land-based have to say about their land.

Responding to the draft by Jairam Ramesh, which got widespread meida reporting, Sangharsh said that today when the ministry of rural development has brought out the first draft of the ‘comprehensive’ Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2011, they at Sangharsh, stand vindicated. This has been a demand of people for the last many decades. They said, “Today, what we dreamt about, the repeal of the LAA and the replacement by a more pro-people comprehensive legislation is closer to being a reality. The struggling people across India, from Koel Karo to Nadigram and from Narmada to Kalinga Nagar and Niyamgiri have lots to cheer in what we have in hand.”

The new draft legislation precisely falls short of its biggest claim of being ‘comprehensive’. All the packaging nor the repeated claim of being ‘comprehensive’ can hide its actual limitations.

The present draft, put forth along with a foreword by Ministry of Rural Development, for the purpose of nationwide consultations, has opted to restrict itself to dealing with Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement. While being a political retraction, it also amounts to utter injustice to the entire process that went on in this country since 2004.

The Congress led UPA, instead of progressing from its previous positions has actually retracted to its pre-2006 position through the draft. It has also gone back from the promises made by the UPA Chairperson, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, in 2006, while agreeing to the National Advisory Council (NAC) draft of the legislation. The NAC Draft, in hindsight was far more progressive and comprehensive as it referred to the draft legislation for ‘Development Planning, Minimum Displacement and Just Rehabilitation’.

It is an irony that Jairam Ramesh, who has introduced this draft, was part of that NAC team.

Summing up the general sentiment of the people, Medha Patkar said, “We are here not to beg, but to ask for what is rightfully ours. Nobody can eat electricity or money. To ensure survival, save agriculture land.” She further asked the UPA government to make it clear that the government is in support of the repeal of LAA in toto, while propounding a new Land Bill and remove the veil of confusion.

Prominent among the national leaders attended the dharna includes, Dr.Binayak Sen, Janaklal Thakkur (Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha),farmers’ leader Dr.Sunilam, forest workers leader Roma, PUCL general secretary Kavita Srivastava, Dr. Banwarilal Sharma of Azadi Bachao Andolan, Ajit Jha of Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Ashok Chaudhary, Akhil Gogoi and Swami Agnivesh.

Gautam Bhandhyopadhya, leader of Nadhi Ghati Morcha from Chattisgarsh said, “It is time to take a stand on who will have ownership rights over land and natural resources.” He focused on the struggle of the farmers, workers, fish workers who are determined not to let go of their land and rights. He mentioned that it is important to discuss how developmental projects such as dams and power plants acquire and utilize large tracts of agricultural and forest land.

Addressing a full house at Jantar Mantar, former National Commissioner of SC/ST Dr. B.D. Sharma said, “If farmers are trapped in the lure of money, they will be deprived of land, and hence their livelihood. Death of large number of the farmers are not suicides – they are driven to death by the wrong policies of the government, which devalued the value of farmers and farming.” He called the people to insist on Hamara gaon me hamara raj (self rule in the villages) to end mindless exploitation.

Member of Parliament from Samajwadi Party, Mohan Singh said, “The issues are so pertinent that you need national support from all progressive political parties. A better communication and understanding between people’s movements and political parties is the need of the hour, rather than any distance between the two.” He further said that no fertile land should be usurped for private purposes.

A delegation of Sangharsh is meeting the Tribal Affairs Minister, Kishore Chandar Deo as well as Kamalnath, Minister of Urban Development late in the afternoon to discuss issues pertaining to tribals.

The Sangharsh action is being held in Delhi on the 20th anniversary of economic reforms. It is evident that the neo liberal paradigm is collapsing from within as the nation is rocked with scandals on land, telecommunications, mining and infrastructure projects. People across the country are rising up against the corporate led model.

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2011 LAND BILL MILITATES AGAINST ‘PUBLIC PURPOSE’
– Favours Companies, Legitimises Private Acquisitions and Ignores Community Concerns
– Movements Demand Democratic, Development Planning Act

New Delhi, July 30: The much awaited comprehensive draft of the Land acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill promised by Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh was put in public domain for comments yesterday. It is commendable that the Ministry has now agreed to reopen the whole process and focus on the pre-legislative consultations and not introduce such an important legislation in hurry in this Monsoon session of the Parliament. However, the proposed draft is NOT a comprehensive draft but mere combination of the earlier proposed Two Bills and fails to take in account the concerns raised by the millions of project affected people. The Bill focuses on only one concern which is to facilitate land acquisition and serve the land needs of private and public corporations and facilitate urbanization as ‘inevitable’. There is no concerted attempt to fulfill the task of land reforms and protect the land and livelihood rights of the communities across the country. Nor does the Bill realize the gravity of urban displacement and its linkages with the enormous corruption of the land sharks builder mafia.

NAPM and many grassroots movements across the country have been struggling to protect the land rights of the farmers, forest dwellers and other nature-based communities and ensure their control over natural resources through the Gram Sabha and Basti / Area Sabhas, deciding the development plans for public purpose in their area. Proposed provision of consent of the 80% project affected people is only required wherever the private entities are involved in the process of acquisition whereas all the acquisitions for the government requires no such consent, keeping intact the ‘eminent domain’ principle of the state. This will mean that the proposed projects like Jaitapur, Fatehabad or dams, thermal power plants, airports etc. to be built by the government will not require any consent of the people. The Bill provides the much needed legitimacy for the acquisitions for the private companies since today only by violating the existing LAA 1894 state governments could acquire land in POSCO, Noida or many other places for the private entities.

This Bill is regressive that way, since the definition of public purpose covers almost everything from building educational institutions to airports to mining, where a large number of private companies are involved. These companies are not there for the public purpose but for making profit and it is in their private interest. Housing for any income group and by private entities will mean legitimising the real estate activities in all its forms. The broad definition of public purpose reduces the process of deciding the public purpose by a committee full of bureaucrats to a farce; it will be reduced to a mere rubber-stamp authority. The Bill also does not satisfactorily take into account the decades’ long experience and progressive inputs by the displaced communities on land and livelihood based rehabilitation. The provision that R&R shall be provided only when more than 100 families are displaced is unreasonable.

The proposed Bill goes back on the significant debates around the concept of public purpose in last two decades and fails to take in account the provisions mentioned in the Draft Development Policy of NAC – I, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development recommendations in 2008 and submissions made by many social movements. The land struggles in Orissa, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, AP, Narmada Valley or even in urban centres like Mumbai and Chennai are not just for fair rehabilitation and appropriate compensation, but more fundamentally for communities’ control over the resources – land, water, forest, minerals – and their right to decide the kind and process of development they need or what constitutes public purpose. Unless and until the Bill tries to address these concerns and take in account the Constitutional status of gram sabhas, basti sabhas / municipalities under the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments which mandate the formulation of district and metropolitan level development plans for public purpose by them, the Bill itself will serve no real ‘public purpose’.

The Bill is high on rhetoric but low on content and is many steps backward in the overall debate over the land conflicts in the country today. It will in no way quell the ongoing conflicts across the country, armed or otherwise; but will surely facilitate acquisitions in the areas like Haryana, UP and other plain areas, promote real estate and make corporations rich, happy and unruly. However, the communities will have to continue their struggle to save their resources from being taken over by the public and private corporations in the name of public corporations. Although the Bill contains some necessary provisions such as “under no circumstances should multi-cropped, irrigated land be acquired”, it does not address the challenge of large scale diversion of agricultural land across the country for non-agricultural purposes and the consequent impact on the nation’s food security and pauperization of communities.

INDIA is not NOIDA, the architects of the Bill doesn’t seem to recognize the diverse realities of the country and are only concerned about the nine percent growth, creation of infrastructure and urbanization; extremely unfortunate for a Bill drafted by the Ministry of RURAL DEVLOPMENT which is obsessed with the ambitions of the URBAN DEVELOPMENT.

To oppose these draconian provisions being pushed by the government in the name of ‘protecting farmers’ interest’ and legitimizing the acquisitions by the private entities for their profit ventures, NAPM, along with many other social movements of the country from 15 states will be assembling at the Jantar Mantar from August 3rd till 5th under the banner of ‘SANGHARSH’. We continue to demand enactment of a COMPREHENSIVE DEVELOPMENT PLANNING ACT which will protect the land, resource and livelihood rights of the communities and ensure democratic participation of the people in deciding developmental plans for public purpose.

Medha Patkar / Prafulla Samantara / Anand Mazgaonkar / Dr. Sunilam

Rajendra Ravi / Akhil Gogoi / Madhuresh Kumar / D. Gabriele

Sr. Celia / Ramakrishna Raju / Vimalbhai / Shrikanth