Posts Tagged ‘land acquisition’
More than a thousand representatives from movements and struggles from across the country converged to Jan Mantar for a two day dharna. Objections and concerns about the amendments being introduced to the Land Acquistion Act (1894) and the draft Rehabilitation & Resettlement Bill were presented by the movements from more than 15 states. Eminent citizen and activists like Kuldip Nayyar, Jst. Rajender Sachar, among others shared their concerns about the government’s (in)actions and intentions in trying to table these bills without any public debate or consultation.
The primary demands of the dharna were:
Abolish the Land Acquisition Act of British Legacy
Issue a White paper on Land Acquisition, Displacement and Rehabilitation for the last 60 years
Shelve the two Bills and hold a national consultation on the NAC approved draft along with the displaced people and the people’s organizations and
Institute a Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee for the discussion on the two Acts
The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill was introduced by the UPA government in the last session of their previous term; however, while it was passed in the Lok Sabha, it could not go through a vote in the Rajya Sabha. The Bill endorses the view that ‘private’ purpose, implying corporate and private commercial interests, is synonymous with ‘public’ purpose. The Bill in its current form negates the process of consultation that began with the National Advisory Council (NAC) and people’s movements, where a comprehensive Development Policy was drafted, keeping in mind concerns of the people.
Speakers underlined that the interlinked nature of the two subjects, land acquisition and Rehabilitation & Resettlement was the basis on which the comprehensive Development Policy was drafted in a people centric manner following the consultations at the National Advisory Council. Voices from across the country opposed the plan to (re)introduce these two bills as regressive steps.
A people’s parliament, जन संसद, was organized on the second day of the dharna. People from different places presented their arguments on the idea of comprehensive development, land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement. Rajya Sabha MP Ali Anwar presided over a session of the Jan Sansad and expressed his continued support to people’s struggles for justice. Speaking from experiences of the havoc wrecked by various projects undertaken in the name of development, the shameless non compliance of current norms for land acquisition and rehabilitation was laid out in stark detail. The dharna ended with a crescendo of slogan decrying the government’s anti people action and a symbolic throwing of the draft bills in water.
Involving all affected members of a community in a fight for their rights is a challenge in any struggle. If the threat is as non apparent as an SEZ that has received in principle approval, this challenge is made even more difficult to overcome. The track record of state governments scrapping an in principal approved SEZ is non existent. The one proposed to be set up in Nandigram comes close to being counted as one, but then, it has not really been scrapped. And Nandigram has happened at the cost of the lives lost, the injuries & the sexual, physical and mental abuse suffered by its residents at the hands of govt. sponsored hooligans over many weeks and months.
Fighting for one’s rights is not an easy thing. For a small farmer, often it might be much easier to accept the measly compensation, however inadequate it might be. With a land holding of an acre or less, they would have worked on other’s farms or experienced seasonal migration to make ends meet. The cash compensation might seem to be something substantial enough to allow them to ‘settle down’, though there are very few examples of such sucesses.
Usually one can see that the struggle against an unjust acquisition and an even more unjust compensation is spear headed by those with more than an acre or so and less than 10 to 15 acres of land holding. Having built their farm and family these farmers typically are the most vested in their land and know what they would be loosing in case of an acquisition.
Farmers with relatively larger land holdings are either absentee farmers, or feel that they are too big to be bothered by such minor land acquisitions. More often though, the powers that be do not touch the lands of those farmers strong enough to rock the decision of the acquisition. Even if a significant portion of a large land holding is acquired, the land owner can sit back and see the land value soar as the struggle against the acquisition is fought by others. Rarely can one see a large land owner stand shoulder to shoulder with the few small and many medium land holding farmers and fight against the acquisition.
A typical scenrio seemed to prevail in the area proposed to be acquired for an SEZ in Nandagudi, near Bangalore. It was a short four hour visit and most probably we were not able to capture the details of the community coming together to fight for their rights. But from what we could see, Nandagudi Bhooswadeena Horata Samiti (NBHS) (Anti-land Acquisition Committee of Nandagudi) has an uphill battle in front of them to convince both the small and the large land holding farmers of the threat to their land, their lives and their livelihood.
The pace and zeal with which resource rich land is being acquired in different parts of the country in the name of ‘development’ is shocking, to say the least. The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act of 2005 has made it the govt.’s task to acquire land for anyone who can claim to set one up and convince the babus in the Ministry of Commerce. An SEZ would be a sovereign of its own. One would need documentation to move anything into or out of an SEZ, similar to those needed to move anything into or out of a country. In exchange for this almost unrestrained freedom, the SEZ is expected to have a positive net foreign exchange. A recent CAG report lays out how SEZs reap the benefits while defeating this objective.
SEZs are mushrooming across the country(side). More than 500 of them have been cleared and more than twice that many are waiting for approval. A ‘multi-product’ SEZ is proposed to be set up on 12,500 acres of fertile land in Nandagudi hobli of Bangalore Rural district. It has been given provisional approval and the Govt. of Karnataka is testing the waters to begin the land acquisition process. The SEZ would lead to the displacement and loss of livelihood of more than a lakh people. Farmers from Nandagudi are known for their milk-silk and vegetables and supply about 30% of the fresh produce bangaloreans consume daily.
Nandagudi Bhooswadeena Horata Samiti (NBHS) (Anti-land Acquisition Committee of Nandagudi) was formed to lead the struggle. The community got its first information of the designs being drafted on their land when the media reported that an application for a SEZ was filed. Neither the local community nor the local elected bodies knew that a Nikhil Gandhi from SK Infrastructure Limited, had sought that their land be acquired by the goverment.
NAPM, Sahaja Samrudha, Community Health Cell, AID Bangalore and various other groups organized protest marches and dharnas against the SEZ act and in particular the proposed SEZ in Nandagudi. The change of govt. in Bangalore is not expected to change the direction of the onslaught by much. The NBHS has taken the GoK to court over its attempts to silently convert forest land into state government land.
Over the next few months and years I hope to support this struggle in whatever way that I can and will be posting about it…