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‘Indian govt is trying to fool people with the new land bill’

Aug 22, 2012

Protesters at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar urge the government against proceeding with the Land Acquisition Bill, terming the Act in the making an undemocratic one.

The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) brought thousands of protestors to New Delhi under the platform of ‘Jan Morcha’ to stage a protest against the upcoming ‘Right to fair compensation, R&R and transparency in Land Acquisition Bill, 2012’ being introduced in Parliament during its current session. The term ‘R&R’ in the title of the bill is for resettlement and rehabilitation.

The organisers of the protest say that the bill attempts legitimising land grab in the garb of the bill, which they describe as being anti-people and for corporate exploitation and corruption. Speaking at the opening of the three-day three day Jan Morcha against land grab at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, Dr Sunilam of the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Madhya Pradesh, said, “The UPA Government is trying to fool both the Parliament and the people of India, by bringing the ‘Right to fair compensation, R&R and transparency in Land Acquisition Bill, 2012’.

“The government not only has betrayed the common man’s will, but has also effectively rejected the consultations and recommendations of the two Parliamentary Standing Committees on the subject”, added Roma Malik of National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (NFFPFW, Kaimur region, UP).
The protesters challenged the government to try and pass the bill in the current form. “The bill will face the same fate as that of the Land Acquisition Act (LAA) Amendments Bill that UPA-I tried to pass in Rajya Sabha in 2009”,  said Madhuresh Kumar, National Organiser of National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM).

“The Ministry of Rural Development is ridiculing the lives and struggles of people who are fighting to protect their land and resources and not for ‘better compensation,” he added.
Martyrs from several anti-displacement struggles, from Assam, Gujarat, Punjab, Kerala were remembered by the Jan Morcha. Tombstones were erected at the protest venue in Delhi, with the names of valiant fighters who lost their lives to the brutal violence of the state police or corporate goons.

“We demand that the government declare its stand on the land already acquired, used and the fate of those who lost their livelihood. There can be no talk about new land acquisitions unless we talk of the historical injustices, ‘Poorana hisab saaf karo phir naye kee baat karo’ (Clear the old dues first and then talk about the new deals),” said Shanta Bhattacharya, of Kaimur Kshetra Mahila Mazdoor Kisan Morcha.
According to NAPM, the contents of the current draft bill go against many the recommendations of people’s movements. More importantly, activists say, the draft bill is also not in consonance of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the subject.

Saying that the centralised planning process for development projects must give way to participatory and consent based planning, activists say that this should have scope for the Gram Sabhas and Basti Sabhas to have the primary say in deciding what kind of development is required for the area. The two forums should also decide on what constitutes public purpose, NAPM activists say.

Protesters at the Jantar Mantar echo the opinion that the current bill legitimises land acquisition of by anyone even for private profit. Its wording, they say skirts the issues of transparency and fair compensation. The activists fear that agricultural land will be a big casualty of this bill if it comes into force and so, they are activating against farm lands being excluded from acquisition, irrespective of whether the land is a multi-crop or single-crop site. This is not an issue of compensation or its quantum, they say.

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