JOINT PRESS RELEASE
The UPA Government in its first term worked with a pro-people approach on certain aspects, initiating measures such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Forest Rights Act etc., while on the other hand proceeding full steam with policies and actions that explicitly turned control over natural and other resources (land, water, forests, energy resources, people and laws) into corporate hands. This fallacious two-pronged approach continues in its second ‘avataar’, with a move to fast-track more sinister measures in its 100-day agenda.
The UPA has actually come to mean an alliance among all mainstream parties, promoting pro-corporate agricultural, economic and industrial policies that all ruling parties – present & past – follow, resulting in the loss of livelihood resources, displacement and dis-employment of farmers, farm-workers, adivasis, fisher-people, and factory workers in their millions. People are left with no alternative but to resist, often at the cost of their lives. That was the picture that emerged from the over one thousand-strong two-day Jan Sansad – with representatives from 15 states – held by the National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements and other organizations at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi on 23-24 July ’09.
The Nadi Ghati Morcha and the Chhattisgarh Anti-Displacement Forum narrated the plight of the people of the resource-rich Adivasi state, who have suffered mass displacement and land alienation in the face of a ruling party-which uses a nefarious Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act to repress people, and openly promotes huge mineral extraction to aid private corporate interests.
In Orissa, explicit state repression has been used to turn over lands to corporate interests such as POSCO, Vedanta, Kalinganagar, most strikingly evidenced by the arrests of activists such as Abhay Sahu and more recently Biswajit of Rashtriya Yuva Sanghatan. But, the resistance continues and POSCO has been prevented from taking possession of their lands.
In Andhra Pradesh, people displaced by 60 years of Dam construction have not been rehabilitated, and yet, the Government has 35-40 new Dam projects that will displace lakhs of adivasis, dalits and poor. This is further aggravated by a string of bauxite and laterite mining projects. Also, SEZ projects such as the Reliance SEZ in Kakinada have been handed over a total of 8.25 lakh acres of land, while a massive coastal corridor plan consisting of Mining, Irrigation and SEZ components will affect communities of the 9 coastal districts.
In Maharashtra, the gains made by the people’s movements against the Raigad Reliance SEZ, through a referendum that was held has not been respected by the Government, so far. Other projects such as the LAVASA City project covering 25000 acres, represent the Government machinations of displacing the toiling people.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Ganga Expressway from Balia to Noida affecting 14 districts, has resulted in a very dubious land acquisition process, reeking of a huge scam.
The Pench River Diversion project that affects 31 villages and approximately 25,000 people in Madhya Pradesh is another case of mass displacement. Representatives from the Kisan Sangarsh Samiti and the Mahila Sangarsh Samiti, who continue their resistance there, revealed this before the gathering.
The Traditional communities in Uttarakhand such as the Gujjars have been threatened with displacement because the forest department plans to acquire their lands, with only likely rehabilitation for 10% of the affected communities. These facts were brought to light by representatives of the Gujjar Kalyan Samiti.
The Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill sets the lower limit of project affected families at 200 families. The Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, representing the concerns of peoples’ of Himachal Pradesh, revealed the absurdity of this measure, since, most parts of the mountainous state will always fall below this limit, due to sparse population density, preventing rehabilitation of affected communities..
And, this mass scale displacement does not stop at rural areas, but has now taken into its sweep the urban poor, whether it is the slum dwellers or the hawkers. The All Orissa Roadside Vendors Association highlighted the plight of 2 lakh hawkers and vendors of the state of Orissa (not including Bhubaneswar City), who, despite noises to the contrary have not been given vendor zones and hence, face dis-employment due to a massive surge in urban development projects. This is in light of the Government announcing a Street Vending Policy in 2004 that aimed at regularizing hawkers and vendors, something that remains unimplemented. And, now the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill 2009, which imposes very stringent requirements on the hapless hawkers, resulting in their eviction. In the wake of this direct threat to their lives, the hawkers and vendors have asserted that if their issues are not resolved they will start a mass movement starting February 2010 onwards.
As the Jan Sansad unanimously rejected these attacks on the people’s right to their resources, a similar voice was heard in the Parliament- with the Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee threatening to walk out of parliament, stating that she will remain unrelenting in her opposition to such ‘anti-people’ measures.
Therefore, whether it is the violent attempts at acquisition of land in Singur and Nandigram, the innocent resisters’ blood that was spilled in Kalinganagar, POSCO, Vedanta, the continuous forceful displacement of adivasis in Jharkhand, the massively expensive coastal corridor project in Andhra Pradesh, the story is the same, only the minor details differ. Across the country, the masses are building resistance against the anti-people and mass displacement model.
The current UPA Government cannot continue with such blatant anti-people measure and must:
- drop the proposed Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bills that it wants to rush through the Parliament
- suspend all land acquisition projects that displace people and only provide cash compensation
- put into practice its announcements regarding Special Economic Zones that agricultural land, projects that cause displacement will not be approved
- enable removal of all obstacles in the implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers Act, especially those created by the Forest Department at the local level
- Implement its own stated objectives of not proceeding with any project without the consent of the Gram Sabha, and allowing for an options assessment by the concerned Gram Sabha/ basti Sabha.
- Uphold the right of all communities to the principle of prior-informed consent.
The overwhelmingly unanimous resolve of the Jan Sansad was to resist these machinations at all levels – through local struggles, through state level programmes and at the national level. This coordinated programme will include:
- indefinite dharna in Mumbai starting on 30th July ‘09
- local level programmes in each displacement-affected area whether it is Kakinada SEZ, Eluru dam project or Coastal Corridor project in Andhra Pradesh, the Raigad SEZ or Lavasa City projects in Maharashtra or those in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Himachal Pradesh, in August ‘09
- meeting and lobbying with MPs and MLAs in each state
- State-level programmes in September
- a meeting of researchers, policy makers, intellectuals in Delhi
- a Maha-Sansad / Maha Sammelan in October/November in Delhi
- A Rashtriya Yatra against Displacement
Medha Patkar Gautam Bandopadhyay Shaktiman Ghosh
NAPM Nadi Ghati Morcha National Hawkers Federation
Ashok Chowdhury & Pushpa Bhupendra Rawat Suniti S R
NFFPFW Jan Sangharsh Vahini Visthapan Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti
Rajendra Ravi Simpreet Singh Dayamani Barla
NAPM, Delhi Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan INSAF
P Chennaiah Gabriele Geeta / Ramakrishnan Venkatesh
APVVU NMPS NAPM, Karnatak
Sandhya Devi Ulka Mahajan Vimalbhai
Kalahandi Mahila Samiti SEZ-Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti MATU
Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti
Contact: Rohan (09953078167) Madhuresh (09818905316)