Friday, 14 October 2011

Indian farmers reject land acquisition for urbanization

Since farm land grabs by corporations has become a growing phenomenon, Indian farmers too are facing alienation from their lands and are now in a tussle with the Indian state to question this trend. The Indian government claims that urbanization and the disappearance of rural India is “inevitable” in its foreword to the new land bill governing land acquisitions by the government- usually done in the garb of public purposes but then handed over to private for profit players. 

The Indian farmers however have questioned the logic behind this ‘urbanization is inevitable’ mantra that is used to discredit rural India and have refused to disappear. Recently they met the Rural Development minister Jairam Ramesh regarding the unjust land bill introduced by the government without any public debates or consultations with those that have been struggling against land grabs all across the nation. 

The minister finally agreed to appear in a national public debate provided the farmers themselves organized it. The South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements has thus agreed to organize this debate and invite various social movements from across the country to participate and publicly reject the current trends of blind urbanization at the cost of climate change, livelihood losses as well as food insecurity and rampant hunger. 

Below is the position of the south Indian farmers [also endorsed by the north Indian farmers at Jairam Ramesh’s office].

South Indian Farmers response to the draft LA &RR Bill  -  31st August, 2011.

The Draft National Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation & Resettlement bill, 2011 (LA&RR bill) released by the ministry of rural development on July29th, 2011 in the public domain for discussion does not address genuine “public purpose” - such as rural development, agriculture, eco restoration, land for landless, rights of forest dwellers and tribals etc. Instead it is completely biased towards facilitating industrialization.  This bill is a result of a political compulsion - the compulsion to ensure that there is a coercive law to satisfy the forces [mainly industry] intending to grab land and resources. And that too at a time when those who want to acquire the land, whether government or the private sector has accumulated capital as never before, sufficient to bid and ‘buy’ land at the going rate in the market.

The farming community has no urgency to pass this bill; this is the urgency solely of the government and the industries to advance urbanization and private takeover of our resources. We do not accept the idea that our way of life has no place in the future of India. Industrialization and urbanization is not the right direction – there are already serious environmental, climatic, livelihood and food crises at stake. These crises will only worsen with the vision enshrined in this bill. We demand people’s sovereignty over resources. Why are we not giving land to the landless and completing the land reform process before acquiring land for the industries? We disagree with the fundamental principles laid down in this bill below and list out the reasons why as well as our main demand.

We reject the draft Land acquisition bill in the present form because:
1.  We oppose the fundamental spirit behind the bill. The definition of Public Purpose is absolutely unacceptable to us: The sole purpose of this draft bill is to accelerate industries and urbanization at the cost of all rural communities and our way of life. This bill does not cater to the needs for agriculture or eco-restoration or for land to the landless and small/marginal farmers. We oppose that the state should use its eminent domain in order to spread industries at the cost of rural livelihoods thus increasing the threat of food insecurity and the climate crisis. The role of farming community in ensuring the food sovereignty of India is absolutely more vital to the future of this country than unrestricted industrialization. We therefore reject this definition and demand that a genuine national consultation and deliberation with the farming and rural communities’ takes place at the local level to really define public purpose which should be determined along with farmers and the rural community before any development project. We are willing to give our lands for genuinely public purposes.
2.  Change of farm land use to industrial private purposes is unacceptable: Land is not a commodity to be purchased and sold. Land is about our identity, our roots and out community. Furthermore we oppose that farm land be turned into uses like hotels, residences for rich people. We also reject the distinction between irrigated and un irrigated lands.  This bill promotes acquisition of all lands except multi-cropped irrigated agricultural land, which is often owned by the rich farmers. All agricultural land should be kept for farming purposes only. There should be strong monitoring of land use even when purchased in the open market to ensure that the food sovereignty of India is not put in danger.  We condemn the commodification of land by the govt to facilitate industrialization – agriculture cannot wait and industrialization needs to wait!
3.  Minimum displacement is not the driving force behind this bill: In fact there is no mention of “no forced displacement” or “prior informed consent”. Furthermore 80% consent mentioned is only for PPP projects and not for government projects and there is no guarantee that the government will not use its eminent domain to acquire land for industry. No procedures have been laid out for obtaining the consent of 80% and who will decide that the consent has been obtained? Under the current draft bill the company itself can ascertain 80% consent and the chances are high that they can use forgery and other malpractices to prove consent. We demand a clear laid out procedure in the act itself and that 80% consent must apply to all acquisitions including only for government projects to minimize the trauma of displacement.
4.  No mechanism to protect land losers from unfair negotiations or malpractices of private players to buy land: There is a great power asymmetry between the land buyers and those whose lands are sought. The bill makes no effort to address this. There is no guarantee that private players will not use underhand methods, muscle power, forging etc to grab peoples lands. It does not prevent and protect the people from being forcibly dispossessed of their land through ‘sale’ of land to land mafias of all kinds.
5.  No guarantee that compensation, R & R will happen before the land is taken: The bill promises a ‘liberal’ and speedy compensation, relief and rehabilitation prior to the acquisition but at the same time permits delayed payment of compensation; The collector has enormous powers to decide when R & R is completed and also take over land before compensation is paid. The land losers are at the mercy of the collector who incidentally is also the person to be approached for making any complaints! Instead to strengthening the farmer’s position the bill is putting them at the mercy of the bureaucracy who have historically proved to be serving the interests of the industries and against the people.
6.  We reject the lip service to tribals, forest dwellers and gram sabhas in decision making: Forest dwellers have the primary right under Forest Rights Act to make decisions on forests and this bill does not address that for conducting any project, permission and consent needs to be first acquired from forest dwellers and tribals. How can forest dwellers rights over forest and natural resources be exchanged with an R and R package? Also the Gram Sabhas will receive a “token” consultation, under the current bill, they will not have any meaningful participation or the power to stop a project or give their prior informed consent; This bill also denies any decision making right on ‘relief and rehabilitation’ to the people, the gram/ward sabhas
7.  Inadequate rehabilitation package: Why is R and R only applied to 100 acres and above? Even if a single acre is acquired for any government project, then R and R should apply. Furthermore, the bill denies compensation and R & R to those affected by the acquisition of common property or public land and denies infrastructural amenities in the resettlement area where the number of resettled families is less than one hundred families. It exempts private companies from the provisions of rehabilitation and resettlement when the ‘land acquisition’ is for less than one hundred acres;
8.  Social impact assessment is a farce: Under the current bill the SIA seems like a window dressing. The main issues as to how the SIA will impact the final decision on the project are not answered. It seems like the SIA is only meant to improve the project rather than rejecting it if opposed by the people. Furthermore the SIA will only be reviewed by an independent expert body but will be conducted by the “appropriate government” when it should be both conducted and reviewed by independent bodies. There is no provision for participation of the affected people or Gram Sabhas in the SIA. It offers social impact assessment to be carried out, but does not insist that the decision to acquire land has to be based on its recommendations;
9.  Unfair disciplinary mechanisms: the bill provides for only disciplinary proceedings for offenses by the officials while providing for imprisonment and penalty to those people obstructing land acquisition.
OUR DEMAND

·        We demand the introduction of a new Bill instead of the bill the “The Draft National Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation & Resettlement bill, 2011” published by the ministry of Rural development on 29th July,2011 to repeal the draconian “The Land Acquisition Act 1894”. The ministry should completely revamp the bill and should come out with a new bill taking in to the consideration of the farmer’s movements and people’s movements.
·        We demand the government of India to formulate a committee comprising the representatives of the farmer’s movements to finalise the new bill for the land requirement for the government and Rehabilitation & Resettlement.
·        We demand that a genuine guideline of public purpose is created after nationwide debates at the taluka level. Only when genuine public purpose is determined by the new guidelines and after prior informed consent of those whose lands are needed in each case land can be given to the state after a liberal offer of compensation along with a relief and rehabilitation far above the operative market prices.
·        Project affected persons and or gram sabhas should have the right to stop a project if they find violations, or if the social impact assessments so recommend.
·        We demand that the government makes a timeline to build a consensus among the farming and rural communities of India, we need debates at the taluka level. The new bill should be translated in all regional languages so that we may be able to have discussions and debate at the grassroots level.
·        We demand  the government of India to  release a White Paper on the extent of land acquired for industrial purposes and extent of land ‘really' utilised for the purpose specified in the past six decades
·        Finally, before the new law comes into place all acquisition processes under the draconian 1894 Land Acquisition Act should be suspended.

Endorsed by
Karnataka Rajya Ryota Sangh( KRRS) (Karanataka).
Thamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam( Tamil Nadu),
Uzhavar Ulaippalar Katchi(Tamil Nadu),
Uzhavar Periyakkam(Tamil Nadu),
Katchi Sarpartra Thamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam(Tamil Nadu),
Kongunadu Vivasayigal Sangam( Tamil Nadu),
Kerala Coconut Farmers Association (KCFA)( Kerala)
Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha(Kerala),

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