Land Acquisition Act makes mockery of Democracy
People’s Movements demand decentralized development planning
Day-4, 24th November 2010
- National Action by Sangharsh[i] continues on day-3
- Anti-displacement groups celebrate scrapping of Renuka Dam, HP
- Scrap Seang and other North East Dam projects; we want development, not destruction, says KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi
- We want ‘Gram Sabha’ over ‘Lok Sabha’, Gautam Bandopadhyay of Nadi Ghatti Morcha
- No more urban displacement; urban working people’s struggle groups demand share of urban spaces and action against land mafia
- Demolish Adarsh Society and the many other violators of law; demands NAPM
New Delhi – Government of India is acting against the federal nature of the state and the very constitution of India. By centralizing ‘water’, which is a state subject, the government has broken the very centre-state understanding under federal Indian structures, said Akhil Gogoi, inaugurating the Sangharsh Dharna on day-3 against Dams in the North East and rest of India. Seang project and the multiple projects on Brahmaputra and other rivers of NE will not only break the agricultural dependent region’s backbone, it will also displace large chunks of people in the NE states, the KMSS leader added.
The delegation of Sangharsh leaders met with Jairam Ramesh, Minister (Independent Charge) of MoEF and PK Bansal, Cabinet Minister of the Minsitry of Water Resources.
Mr. Jairam Ramesh announced to the team that the Renuka Dam project stands cancelled from the ministry’s point of view especially with regard to forest clearance. He also stated that he has already written to the Prime Minister about dams in North East India, raising serious concerns regarding social and environmental issues raised by the movement and the local people. He assured the delegation that the MoEF is conducting a study to look at the environmental impacts of the Lavasa Project. He ensured the delegation that strict action will be taken if the project implementers are found violating the laws. On Forest Rights Act implementation related issues, the MoEF minister promised to meet the groups separately on Dec 15th. On Tehri dam related violations, he stated that there is already an investigation that is going on by the ministry and action will be taken on the basis of that.
Mr. Pawan Kumar Bansal was requested by the delegation to reconsider the several dam projects in different parts of India. Mr. bansal assured the delegation that the ministry will not permit commercial or energy related pressures to override environmental or people’s concerns. Regarding the draft water policy, he announced the ministry’s intent to hold talks with people’s struggles and movements at the ground before finalizing the same.
Indian Government deals with people of Arunachal Pradesh as if we are Chinese agents and it is unfortunate that we have to remind our own government that we are citizens of India and not China, said Bijay Taram of Forum for Siang Dialogue. He added that the indigenous people based demography of the region will be negatively impacted if workers from other regions were to be brought in for these gigantic construction activities. The worst part of these projects is they the local people do not stand to gain from the power generated from these projects, as it will be diverted to the industrial houses and corporations led projects. We stand together with the people of rest of India in demanding an end to the regime of Land Acquisition Act and in this paradigm of centralized development planning, Mr. Bijay concluded.
Land Acquisition Act 1894 is a mockery of democratic procedures, said Adv. Sanjay Parikh of Supreme Court. The amendments by the UPA government will make the legislation more undemocratic and anti-people, he added while talking to the more than 3000 people gathered at Jantar Mantar as part of Sangharsh.
On Urban issues and displacement
Anbovedam of NAPM Tamil Nadu and the Chennai people’s struggle against urban displacement accused that the TN Government has been misusing the LAA to the extent that it has been creating land banks, without even letting the local people know what purpose their lands have been acquired for. The vicious cycle of development induced displacement is such that it first displaces peasants and agricultural workers from their lands, pushes them to cities like Chennai and then their urban development and beautification projects displace these very people many times over again. Ridiculing the government of India for their blind following of the US government’s neo-liberal policies, he pointed at the unemployment in US and asked Indian government not to follow a nation who is unable to feed and employ their own population. For construction of bridges, hotels, highways and flyways, the number of working poor evicted from Chennai alone is close to five lakhs. Why should the poor trust such governments any more, asked Mr. Anbovedam.
Anita Kapoor of National Domestic Workers Union, Raju Bhise of YUVA, Mumbai, Rajendra Ravi of Institute for Development and Sustainability, Delhi etc spoke at the meeting on urban issues. The speakers ridiculed the Rehabilitation packages and beautification drives under projects like MUTP and JNNURM. These projects, they argued, not only displace people to far away suburbs, robbing people of their jobs, but also make livelihood alternatives impossible. Workers contribution to building of cities is not even taken into account while displacing the very people once the construction phase is over. Mr. Bhise concluded by stating that now the people will not accept anything short of land rights in the urban spaces. The speakers also demanded a separate national legislation for rehabilitation of the urban project affected people.
Ganeshan of NAPM Maharashtra, representing the struggle against Lavasa project slammed the government for displacing more than 20 villages, cutting huge number of trees, destroying people’s livelihoods and environment – all to complete a project which in no way benefit the local people.
Displacement, corporations and the proposed Free Trade Agreement between India and EU
Speaking on the India – EU Free trade Agreements, Leena of ‘Forum against FTAs stated that “India’s vast mineral wealth attracts not only Indian but foreign companies as well. Through Free Trade Agreements such as the EU-India FTA, European Corporations will be facilitated access to Indian minerals, increasing the conflict over the use of land and forests. The European commission has identified the EU-India FTA as a mean to ensure EU companies stable and cheap access to minerals for their industrial use, including chromite and rare earths which are largely found in India. This is to be ensured by including provisions that limit or prohibit export taxes, export quotas, and ‘non-automatic export licenses’ for European companies in India. In addition, the investment chapter in this FTA reportedly contains provisions allowing European investors to sue the Indian Government in secret arbitration tribunals if the government implements a policy or takes an action that decreases the profits that the corporation was expecting from its investment in India. This system is not only out of democratic oversight but also means a de facto overriding the Constitution of India, as the arbitration tribunal is not bound by the Constitution of the land, but only by the FTA. Investment provisions should not dilute the ability of the government to take pro-people actions in cases like POSCO or Vedanta where legitimate environmental and social concerns have been raised.
Ms. Leena added: Both sides have announced their determination to finalise the deal by the 10th of December, during the EU-India Summit to be held in Brussels. While concerns have been raised on various issues and even parliamentarians have not received proper answers to the questions they have raised, negotiations behind closed doors will be held tomorrow and day after in Delhi.
Members of Parliament; Joseph Toppo (AGP), Viren Vaishya (AGP) and Kumar Deepak Das (Rajya Sabha, AGP) also visited the Dharna and extended solidarity to the struggle against Land Acquisition. Speakers at the public meeting and rally included: Dr. Manoranjan Mohanty of the Council for Social Development, Swami Agnivesh of Bandhua Mukti Morcha, Nikhil Dey of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Jai Sen of CACIM, Kavita Srivsatava of PUCL.
The participants at the Dharna took out a rally to the Parliament and reiterated the demand for local, decentralized planning and for implementation of article 243 of the Indian constitution.
Day-4 of the National Action Week on the 25th Nov will focus on ‘Right to Food’.
Media team for Sangharsh (Vijayan – 9582862682 / 9868165471, Shalini Sharma (9871076165)