Medha Patkar and other movement leaders condemn efforts to continue colonial legacy through Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill
During the day, the leadership from movements also met with Prof. C P Joshi (Cabinet Minister, Ministry of Rural Development), Shishir Adhikary (MoS, MoRD), Kantilal Bhuria (Minister, Tribal Affairs) and many Members of Parliament. The main demands included: scrapping of the Land Acquisition Act 1894, the withdrawal of the R&R and LAA (Amendment) Bills and re-introduction of the National Advisory Council Draft of 2006, in the place of the current bills. The leaders also demanded that the colonial legacy of land acquisition using Principle of ‘Eminent Domain’, must be discarded and that the government’s commitment to minimum displacement should reflect in their legislative approach. NAPM also demanded that a Joint Parliamentary Committee should be appointed to study and debate the issue further with people’s movements and other concerned people, including experts and social scientists and finalise the NAC draft into a national legislation.
“Struggles against displacement are invariably against the current model of exploitative and unjust development. Present paradigm goes against principles of natural justice, displaces more people from their natural habitats, benefits a handful of Multi-National Corporations and permanently destroys our environment. We do not want such anti-people and anti-nature development at the cost of millions of Indians. From Himalayas to Kerala’s fishworkers and from Nandigram in WB to Mundra in Gujarat, people of India have proven through their resistance, what we demand today”, said Gumman Singh of the Himalaya Niti Abhiyan. Vimalbhai of MATU people’s organisation of Uttarakhand added that the present model of displacement oriented development has led to the current climate and economic crisis and solutions for the same cannot come from the perpetrators. A just and fair society cannot be envisaged by passing legislations that allows and empowers displacement and environment destruction.
The Land Acquisition (amendment) Bill have redefined ‘public purpose’ by delisting community requirements like social infrastructure etc from the land acquisition provisions and adding corporate and company purposes, including mining activities and highways as infrastructure development. The amendments also proposes replacing of the term ‘companies’ by ‘person’, thereby securing legitimacy for purposes that amount to ‘land grab’.
People’s movements have always demanded a national legislation for securing the rights of the displaced and affected people. However, the present Rehabilitation & Resettlement Bill does not recognise the rights of the affected persons. The Bill does not go by the internationally agreed principles like ‘Free and Prior Informed Consent of affected people’, prior to displacement and rehabilitation process. It creates arbitrary numerical benchmarks for rehabilitation, in a visible effort to divide affected people. The Bill proposes that rehabilitation will be applicable only if more than 200 families are affected by a project in hill/scheduled areas or only if more than 400 families are affected by a project in plain areas.
Listing the five key principles for a rehabilitation legislation, the movement representatives stated that “Options assessment, free and prior informed consent of affected communities, minimum displacement, resource for resource compensation and prior, comprehensive and just rehabilitation” are the ways to avoid further civil conflict in the country.
“UPA government led by Dr. Manmohan Singh is using the ‘Aam Admi’ to give cover for the interests of the corporates and the elite class. The way the new draft legislations of R&R and LAA are drafted and the way in which definitions like ‘Public Purpose’ have been redrafted to accommodate interests of Private Companies and individuals, it is clear that UPA is using its renewed mandate to eliminate the very people who elected them to power”, said Bhupender Singh Rawat of Jan Sangharsh Vahini, the organisation actively involved in the Delhi farmers’ agitation against land grab in Kanjhawla area of Rohini. The movement representatives also shared detailed critique of both bills with journalists at the press meet. These two draft Bills are being placed before current session of Parliament as they were passed only in the Lok Sabha and not in the Rajya Sabha in 2008.
NAPM demanded that the draft bill on; ‘Development, Minimum Displacement and Rehabilitation’, as passed by the Sonia Gandhi led National Advisory Council (NAC) in 2006, after several rounds of consultations with people’s movements, experts and other stake holders, should be made the debating point for the much required national legislation on Rehabilitation. NAPM also demanded that a JPC should be appointed by the Parliament to study and formulate the comprehensive legislation.
“It is extremely cruel to the displaced masses across the country that they need to come to Delhi and demonstrate, even to be heard. But if that is what is required, thousands will march to Delhi and will make themselves heard. The action on the 23rd and 24th July, including the People’s Parliament, at Jantar Mantar will be the first in a series of struggles to make the deaf hear. People from Jharkhand, MP, UP, Orissa, Uttarakhand, HP, Maharashtra, West Bengal and others will join in the national action”, concluded Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and NAPM.
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A national level agitation in Delhi against the UPA Government’s efforts to pass the current version of LAA (Amendments) and Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) bill, will take place in Delhi on the 23rd and 24th of July 2009, stated leaders of NAPM and other people’s struggles. Addressing a Press Conference in Delhi’s Press Club, movement leaders including Medha Patkar, Ashok Choudhury, Gumman Singh, Vimalbhai and Bhupender Singh Rawat challenged UPA’s claim of governance for ‘aam admi’, while bringing in anti-people legislations like R&R and LAA. “The present form of the Bills are only going to further displacement of the ‘aam admi’ of the country and is intended to be a justification and not remedy for the large scale displacement going on in the country”, stated Medha Patkar to the media.