New Delhi, 4th August 2011: Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramash was told forcefully by a delegation from Sangharsh that the issue of land aquistion is political and is one of the most burning issues of the country and that cannot be passed with a political process and discussion in the country. The minister was reminded about the large number of people hitherto displaced by various developmental projects and demanded a white paper on it. The minister was further told that the people displaced by the massive projects in the urban areas are not covered under this Bill and they will left high and dry.
The delegation also raised concerns about widening the definition of public purpose, which under the new Bill could easily include private interests as well. They rejected the formation of a committee which would include experts to decide whether a project will benefit the people of the area. It was reinforced by the delegation that only the gram sabha and the basti sabhas who will be affected have the right to decide whether the project will be beneficial or not.
The minister was reminded that it is incorrect impression that is being spread is that farmers across are ready to give their land if provided with higher compensation. It was asserted that people do not want to give up their land under any circumstances.
The Sangharsh National Action against Land Acquisition Act, 1894 demanding a comprehensive National Development Planning legislation entered the second day with more people from Odisha, Karnataka, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh joining the dharna at Jantar Mantar, bringing in added vigour and spirit on a rain washed day. Even as the dharna addressed urban issues, energy policy and forests rights, separate delegations held meetings with the Ministers of Environment and Forests, Social Justice and Empowerment and Rural Development.
“The Constitution of India is made by the people and for the people, and the government will have to accept the demands of the struggling marginalized people” said Rajinder Sachar, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court while expressing solidarity with Sangharsh dharna.
Addressing a gathering of thousands of struggling people from across India, Socialist ideologue and leader of movements from Odisha, Prafulla Samanthra, referred to the Supreme Court judgment on POSCO and said “We reject the judgment. Irrespective of what Court says, people will continue their struggles to protect their lives and livelihood till the very end. Repression in a democracy is unacceptable”.
He further demanded that agricultural lands should not be handed over to industries or any non-agricultural activities. He said that the gram sabhas must be the primary level of decision making on all issues of development. “We are not against industrialization. We support small and non-polluting industries and those which do not cause displacement,” he added.
Movements from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Haryana rejected the government’s energy policy which is focusing on nuclear energy. They warned the government about the disastrous consequences of nuclear and thermal plants and demanded that instead of exposing the people to such impacts the country should opt for decentralized and renewable energy sources.
Dr.Banwarilal Sharma, leader of Azadi Bachao Andolan said, “Gram sabhas should be above the Lok Sabha” and called upon the people to be steadfast in their commitment in their struggle.
Fresh energy was infused into the dharna by the joining of Slum Jana Andolan from Karnataka which has been militantly battling for the rights of urban deprived for land rights and dignity in the cities of Karnataka. The dharna was also joined by Tharu Adivasi Mahila Kisan Manch from Lakhimpur Khiri, Uttar Pradesh.
While the morning session was devoted to urban and energy issues, the contentious issue of Forest Rights Act (FRA) was discussed and debated in the afternoon session.
Forest based communities have always been demanding community ownership and governance rights over forests whereas the state governments have been resisting the implementation of FRA. At most they are ready to grant only pattas and individual rights which is a subversion of the landmark provisions of the Act said community leaders from Sonbhadra and other forest regions. Speaking about the struggles in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, Roma of NFFPFW said “Today the Forest department stands as the biggest stumbling force in the effective implementation of FRA. It is unfortunate that neither the Ministry of Environment and Forests nor the Ministry of Tribal Affairs have reigned in the Forest Department which acts like a landlord of 24% of India’s landmass.”
Prominent among the national leaders attended the dharna includes, Dr. Sandeep Pandey, Dr.Binayak Sen, Chitranjan Singh (INSAF), farmers’ leader Dr.Sunilam, forest workers leader Ashok Choudhary, Akhil Gogoi of KMSS, Assam, Ajit Jha of Samajwadi Jan Parishad, and Swami Agnivesh.
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