NAPM Statement on the proposed Land Acquisition Bill

September 6, 2011

New Land Bill in Hurry will Create More Land Conflicts in the Country
More Time Required for A Legislation Dealing with Historical Injustices

New Delhi, September 5 : NAPM along with many other movements from across the country under the banner of Sangharsh met Honourable Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on August 5th and 7th and on both occasions reiterated its demand that Ministry must hold regional and national consultations before the Bill is introduced in the Parliament. Later many organisations including NAPM wrote to him seeking an extension of the deadline from August 31st. However, Mr. Ramesh seems to be a man in hurry. Within four days of the deadline, for receiving the comments from general public he presents the revised draft to the Cabinet for its consideration and without much debate Cabinet recommends it for introduction to the parliament. It is extremely unfortunate that a key legislation is being pushed in such a hurry and Cabinet further dilutes some of the positive developments in the earlier draft. It is ironic that when the mood in country is against the land acquisition then the Cabinet has brought in the provision that if a private company is acquiring land over 100 acres for a public purpose, all the land will be acquired by the government.

This hurry has left us wondering about the seriousness with which UPA government is taking in consideration the land conflicts in the country today. Time and again we have pointed that the draft Bill fails to take in account the concerns raised by the people’s movements and the knowledge generated on this issue including the serious issues with the resettlement and rehabilitation process in various projects. It is a public knowledge that government has no cumulative data whatsoever on the total land acquired till date, current status of all acquired land, number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and number of people who have been resettled till date. One estimate suggests that there are 10 crores of IDPs in the country since independence and of which nearly 20 percent people have only received any resettlement or rehabilitation benefits. A Bill pushed in hurry is an historic opportunity missed and will only encourage the land conflicts across the country.

We wonder how so many people across the country are supposed to respond to the Bill only available in Hindi and English on Ministry’s website. We had asked the Minister to pro-actively reach out to people in different regions after translating them in regional languages and seek their comments on the Bill, something which Mr. Ramesh has done by reaching out to various Chief Ministers but not to the movements and communities. It is unfortunate that the same has been now recommended to be introduced in the Parliament before it ends in next few days.
Even then we have submitted our concerns to the Ministry on the draft Bill, some of which are :

* The Bill should be titled as ‘Development Planning, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill’ ensuring no forcible acquisition and protecting the rights of the communities over the land and everything attached to it including the mineral, aquatic and forest cover. Any acquisition should be done only in accordance with the democratically developed plans as per the provisions of Art 243 and PESA norms by involvement of Gram Sabha and Basti Sabha.

* Public Purpose definition should be limited to core functions of the government performed with the public money and in no case acquisition should be made for the private corporations where they get benefits due to any forcible acquisition of land or any other natural wealth under this act. Any project drawing private profit can’t be considered public purpose. We reiterate this and only this can deal with the unjustified inequity in the country today leading to injustice for millions.

* Given the low level playing field existing till date between different parties in the process of land acquisition, it is necessary to ensure that even if it is market base purchase of land or other resources by the private parties, including builders, then the state should be duty bound to regulate the market price of resources and ensuring availability of optimum resources of livelihoods for every family especially those belonging to vulnerable section. Thus corporations should also be made liable for the R&R provisions of this bill, which also goes well with the principle of fair play and competitiveness.

* Any arbitrary benchmark for the application of R&R provisions should be done away with and every single family directly or indirectly affected by any kind of acquisition should be provided with the resettlement and rehabilitation benefits.

* We reject market value for the land approach since neither market value is fully worked out nor that automatically ensures attainment of alternative sources of livelihood especially for the least marketised and monetised community such as Adivasis and Dalits. So, without any ifs and buts appropriate provisions for alternative livelihood or mandatory employment be made for project affected people.

* Unjust and irrational urgency clause which is also being challenged in a number of Supreme Court judgements should be done away with and be limited only to natural calamities and for defence purposes only in the time of war.

We would also like to reiterate that in order to expedite rehabilitation and ensure principle of minimum displacement it is necessary to put moratorium till the already displaced are rehabilitated and a new law after wide consultation is enacted. There is a urgent need to enact the legilsation keeping in mind the resource crises which country will face in the wake of climtae crisis and the ongoing agrarian crisis forcing farmers of this country to commit sucicide. The legilsation unfortunately will fail to address the ongoing land alienation of the tribals and marginal farmers in the country and further aggravte the land conflicts, agrarian crisis and impoverishement in the country.

Medha Patkar – Narmada Bachao Andolan
Sandeep Pandey, J P Singh, Manesh Gupta – NAPM, UP
Ulka Mahajan, Suniti S R, Prasad Bhagwe – SEZ Virodhi Manch & NAPM – Maharashtra
Prafulla Samantara – Loksakti Abhiyan & NAPM Odisha
Bhupender Singh Rawat, Nanu Prasad – Jan Sangharsh Vahini
Bilas Bhongade – Gosi Khurd Prakalp Grasht Sangharsh Samiti
Dr. Sunilam, Adv. Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, MP
Akhil Gogoi – KMSS, Assam
Gabriela Dietrich, Geeta Ramakrishnan – Pennuruimai Iyyakam
Gautam Bandyopadhyaya – Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh
P Chennaiah, Ajay Kumar, Ramakrishna Raju, Sarasvathy Kavula – APVVU, Andhra Pradesh
Rajendra Ravi, Madhuresh Kumar – NAPM, Delhi
Simpreet Singh – Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan
Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union, NAPM – Karnataka
Sunita Rani, Anita Kapoor – National Domestic Workers’ Union, Delhi
Vimalbhai – Matu Jan Sangathan & NAPM-Uttarakhand