New Delhi: August 3 – Over 4500 people from around 15 states univocally demanded immediate repeal of the archaic Land Acquisition Act 1894 (LAA) and replacement of it with a comprehensive National Development Planning Act. They vowed never to desert their land to the government or private builders.
They have joined the Sangharsh dharna at Jantar Mantar, where nearly 80 organisations from 15 states have come to raise their issues. They have invited Jairam Ramesh, the Minister of Rural Development, and the proponent the present draft of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill to come to the dharna and hear firsthand what the farmers, adivasis, dalits and other sections of the people who are land-based have to say about their land.
Responding to the draft by Jairam Ramesh, which got widespread meida reporting, Sangharsh said that today when the ministry of rural development has brought out the first draft of the ‘comprehensive’ Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2011, they at Sangharsh, stand vindicated. This has been a demand of people for the last many decades. They said, “Today, what we dreamt about, the repeal of the LAA and the replacement by a more pro-people comprehensive legislation is closer to being a reality. The struggling people acrossIndia, from Koel Karo to Nadigram and fromNarmada to Kalinga Nagar and Niyamgiri have lots to cheer in what we have in hand.”
The new draft legislation precisely falls short of its biggest claim of being ‘comprehensive’. All the packaging nor the repeated claim of being ‘comprehensive’ can hide its actual limitations.
The present draft, put forth along with a foreword by Ministry of Rural Development, for the purpose of nationwide consultations, has opted to restrict itself to dealing with Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement. While being a political retraction, it also amounts to utter injustice to the entire process that went on in this country since 2004.
The Congress led UPA, instead of progressing from its previous positions has actually retracted to its pre-2006 position through the draft. It has also gone back from the promises made by the UPA Chairperson, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, in 2006, while agreeing to the National Advisory Council (NAC) draft of the legislation. The NAC Draft, in hindsight was far more progressive and comprehensive as it referred to the draft legislation for ‘Development Planning, Minimum Displacement and Just Rehabilitation’.
It is an irony that Jairam Ramesh, who has introduced this draft, was part of that NAC team.
Summing up the general sentiment of the people, Medha Patkar said, “We are here not to beg, but to ask for what is rightfully ours. Nobody can eat electricity or money. To ensure survival, save agriculture land.” She further asked the UPA government to make it clear that the government is in support of the repeal of LAA in toto, while propounding a new Land Bill and remove the veil of confusion.
Prominent among the national leaders attended the dharna includes, Dr.Binayak Sen, Janaklal Thakkur (Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha),farmers’ leader Dr.Sunilam, forest workers leader Roma, PUCL general secretary Kavita Srivastava, Dr. Banwarilal Sharma of Azadi Bachao Andolan, Ajit Jha of Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Ashok Chaudhary, Akhil Gogoi and Swami Agnivesh.
Gautam Bhandhyopadhya, leader of Nadhi Ghati Morcha from Chattisgarsh said, “It is time to take a stand on who will have ownership rights over land and natural resources.” He focused on the struggle of the farmers, workers, fish workers who are determined not to let go of their land and rights. He mentioned that it is important to discuss how developmental projects such as dams and power plants acquire and utilize large tracts of agricultural and forest land.
Addressing a full house at Jantar Mantar, former National Commissioner of SC/ST Dr. B.D. Sharma said, “If farmers are trapped in the lure of money, they will be deprived of land, and hence their livelihood. Death of large number of the farmers are not suicides – they are driven to death by the wrong policies of the government, which devalued the value of farmers and farming.” He called the people to insist on Hamara gaon me hamara raj (self rule in the villages) to end mindless exploitation.
Member of Parliament from Samajwadi Party, Mohan Singh said, “The issues are so pertinent that you need national support from all progressive political parties. A better communication and understanding between people’s movements and political parties is the need of the hour, rather than any distance between the two.” He further said that no fertile land should be usurped for private purposes.
A delegation of Sangharsh is meeting the Tribal Affairs Minister, Kishore Chandar Deo as well as Kamalnath, Minister of Urban Development late in the afternoon to discuss issues pertaining to tribals.
The Sangharsh action is being held inDelhi on the 20th anniversary of economic reforms. It is evident that the neo liberal paradigm is collapsing from within as the nation is rocked with scandals on land, telecommunications, mining and infrastructure projects. People across the country are rising up against the corporate led model.
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