September 23 – National Consultation on the Proposed Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill and Resettlement & Rehabilitation Bill (draft)

September 15, 2010

Venue – Indian Social Institute, New Delhi

Dear Comrades / Friends / Colleagues,

Greetings !

Struggles against Land Acquisition have in fact become the most common phenomenon of our times. People across the country have been opposing efforts by the state and corporates to dispossess and displace them from the natural resources, esp land and forests, they possess. Movements have been also struggling to retaining the right over the land they have occupied, resisted attempts at evictions or displacements due to large infrastructure projects, submergence by dams or deprivation / landlessness by any means. The demand for a comprehensive Development planning legislation, that will not have forced displacement has been ongoing for close to two decades now. Despite that, there has never ever been a serious effort by the Government to bring about a national legislation that will replace the colonial Land Acquisition Act nor bring about a new era where people will not be made oustees in their own land.

There has been numerous consultations, meetings, dialogues, demonstrations in Delhi and all across the country however, the government has failed to address the genuine concerns in all these years. In the wake of the recent protests by farmers against unjust acquisition of land in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, there has been again a vociferous demand made by different political parties to bring in the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill.

However, it needs to be noted that 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. In mid August then 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. There are innumerable instances of such acts of harassment, exploitation, dispossession all across the country. In the whole adivasi belt of central India, land acquisition is being masqueraded by anti-movements repression and the infamous ‘Operation Greenhunt’.

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 resistance movements 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.

The earlier consultations by several civil society groups and movements culminated in a draft that was later used by the National Advisory Council to form the basis for the ‘National Development, Displacement and Rehabilitation Bill’, which was passed by the NAC in 2006. 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. Further, the present draft Bills were introduced in complete negation of this draft and the consultations with people’s movements and groups at different levels.

We do hope you will be able to join us for a National Consultation on September 23rd, Thursday, at Indian Social Institute, Lodi Road, New Delhi with your colleagues in the movements and groups so that we can discuss all these issues in detail and work on a better draft of the Comprehensive Act.

In solidarity,

Ashok Chaudhary, Prafulla Samantara, Medha Patkar, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Sandeep Pandey, Anil Chaudhary, Dr. Sunilam, Ajit Jha, Dayamani Barla, Guman Singh, Mamata Kujur, Simpreet Singh, Roma, Vimalbhai, Rajendra Ravi, Anand Mazgaonkar, Bhupendra Singh Rawat, Vijayan M J, Madhuresh Kumar and others…

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