The National Alliance of People’s Movements has opposed any move by the government to dilute the strict provisions of the Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act of 2013.
The Act, which was championed by Jairam Ramesh during his tenure as the environment minister, puts tough conditions on the forcible acquisition of citizens’ land by the government. Among the various restrictions is that land cannot be forcibly acquired for private industries.
“The news that two of the key provisions, ‘consent’ and ‘Social Impact Assessment’ are to be amended by the NDA government is completely unacceptable to the people’s movements and will face tough opposition across the country,” NAPM said in a statement.
NAPM is a broad alliance of NGOs in India, and is primarily active in the area of tribal and backward people’s rights.
The Land Acquisition Act was framed in the wake of protests across the nation at places like Nandigram, Singur, Kalinganagar, Kakrapalli, Bhatta Parsaul, where many people died and struggle by by Narmada Bachao Andolan, Niyamgiri Suraksha Parishad and other NGOs.
It was also the result of Anti-SEZ protests in Raigarh, Jhajhar for repeal of a colonial-era act and the enactment of a new development planning act marking people’s participation and provisions for livelihood based R&R.
“The consent and SIA provision was introduced to do away with the anomalies in the colonial act, since farmers and those dependent on the land were never consulted or made a participant in the process of development planning. Huge tracts of fertile land were acquired at throw away prices and given to private and public corporations in the name of public purpose and industrialization. The stiff opposition to the land grab has led in past to cancellation of numerous SEZs and other projects and any discussion on the question of land for industrialization has to take in account,” NAPM said.
NAPM said most of the states have not implemented the 2013 Act yet.
“It is shocking that most of these states demanding an amendment have not even bothered to frame the rules for the new Act. As of now, Karnataka and Maharashtra are the only two states who have framed draft rules for the same, how can they demand an amendment?”
“It will be a retrograde step if we were to go to back to the colonial process of forced land acquisition and no regard for impact of land acquisition on the people, environment and democratic institutions which need to be consulted and their consent taken in the process of SIA.
On the contrary, the NAPM asked for the following new provisions to make the act tighter.
1. Consent for the public purpose projects to be mandatory for the government projects too.
2. Limited definition of the ‘Public Purpose’. Infrastructure doesn’t equal development.
3. Mandatory SIA provisions for the irrigation projects as well, given the huge displacement, in case of Sardar Sarovar dam the sword of displacement is hanging on 2.5 lakh people even after three decades.
4. Urgently establish a National resettlement and Rehabilitation Commission to deal with the grievances of 10 crores of people who have sacrificed their land and livelihood in the process of development.
NAPM also criticized reported moves to dilute the powers of the environment ministry in giving approvals to industrial projects.
“Since the time NDA government has come to power a slew of changes have been proposed to the existing provisions of environment and forest clearances, as if Ministry of Environment and Forests sole job was to clear projects and allow destruction of forests, wildlife, rivers and so on in the name of development.”