It has been reported in the media that the UPA government is planning to present a draft Bill on Land Acquisition before parliament during the monsoon session.
For the past few years, farmers in different parts of the country have been fighting against forcible land acquisition. It is becoming increasingly clear to them that the acquisition of their lands in the name of "public interest", is actually being carried out to enhance the private profits of the biggest capitalist corporations, Indian and foreign. Whatever the "compensation" they are given for their lands, nothing can replace the loss of their traditional source of livelihood.
Farmers throughout the country are deeply concerned that the government is pushing through the new land acquisition bill, not for the sake of ensuring the livelihood of famers, but to make it easier for the big capitalist corporations to grab their lands.
on June 11, 2011 leaders of farmers struggles from different parts of Haryana participated in a Round Table Conference held in Jind, to discuss the problem of Land Acquisiton and the Bill. . Leaders of many political organizations, including Lok Raj Sangathan, participated in this conference.
Hanuman Prasad Sharma, Vice President of the Lok Raj Sangathan and veteran leader of the teachers union of Rajasthan, explained how the government is forcibly grabbing the rich productive land of the farmers and handing it over to the big capitalists. He pointed out that to legalise this land grab, the government is giving an arbitrary definition of what constitutes "public interest". If in some places it is being carried out in name of establishing Special Economic Zones, in other places it is being done in name of industrial development. He called for mobilising the masses in a united struggle.
He declared that there are indeed some causes of public interest for which land would be necessary. If the government wanted to acquire land for reforestation to protect the environment, or open a school, or establish a hospital, i.e., for purposes which would be to the benefit of all sections of society, then the government has to ensure that the farmers whose land is acquired are rehabilitated and provided alternative land and source of livelihood, before they are displaced. Simultaneously, rehabilitation and alternative source of livelihood must be guaranteed for other sections of society whose livelihood is linked with the land and the displaced farmers — such as agricultural workers, small shopkeepers of the area, the hairdressers and others. Hanuman Prasad Sharma also pointed out that the government must take the farmers whose lands are proposed to be acquired into confidence as to the aim behind the particular land acquisition. It cannot acquire the land unless it gets the agreement of the farmers and other sections of the toilers whose livelihood is linked with the particular land.
Delegates at the round table conference discussed what would be reasonable compensation for land acquisition. Some wee of the iew that the compensation should be ten times the current market rate. Some opined that farmers should be given land in exchange for land. Others wanted assured jobs in the projects that are established on the land they are displaced from. The representative of the Lok Raj Sangathan stressed on the key issue of principle, that there cannot be any forcible displacement.
Another point that came up in the discussion was that there were many projects for which land had been acquired, but no project came up for many years. It was demanded that before any land acquisition, the government must clearly set a time line for the beginning and completion of the project. If it was not started on time, than the land should be returned to the farmers without the compensation being returned.
There was consensus among all the farmer delegates that no land must be acquired for satisfying the private greed of the capitalists for maximum profit. Until a new law is passed which is accepted by the farmers and their organizations, all land acquisitions must be halted. The delegates decided that in order to step up the struggle, a federation of all the farmers organizations and sangharsh samitis would be established. The conference demanded that the government release a white paper on all the land acquisitions in India since 2000, so that the people of the country know what has happened to the land that was forcibly acquired from the farmers. The conference demanded that all cases against farmers in connection with agitations against land acquisition be immediately withdrawn. No land acquisition can be carried out without the agreement of the gram sabhas. The Conference concluded with the decision to step up the struggle against land acquisition on the basis of the above decisions.