NAPM has written an open letter to the agriculture minister Sharad Pawar regarding the current draft of land acquisition bill.
Taking cognizance of the fact that present bill continues to follow the principle of eminent domain and key strategic infrastructure and natural resources are being handed out to corporation, the activists have raised their concerns in the letter.
Here is the full text of the letter:
October 30, 2012
Shri Sharad Pawar,
Chairperson, Group of Ministers
Minister of Agriculture
Government of India
CC : Prime Minister; Chairperson, NAC; Members, Group of Ministers on the Bill; Leader of Opposition and other Political Parties; Members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
Sub : With respect to the Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition 2012
Dear Shri Sharad Pawar Ji,
We have been closely following the media reports on the Group of Ministers deliberations on the above mentioned legislation.
National Alliance of People\\\’s Movements have been struggling for repeal of the colonial Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and enactment of a Development Planning, Land Use Management, No Enforced Displacement, and Just Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act. An earlier draft of the Bill was adopted by the National Advisory Council in January 2006.
It is unfortunate that the provisions of the Bill has been further diluted to accommodate the concerns of the industries. It will be a historic opportunity lost to democratise development planning in the country. The government must stand with the people.
A government of the people can\\\’t acquire land from them for the profiteering of the private corporations in the name of public purpose.
The key strategic infrastructure and natural resources are being handed out to corporations, which are influencing the governance and hurting the national interest, as witnessed in the recent case of Reliance industries willfully stopping production in KG basin and avoiding any audit from CAG. THIS MUST STOP ! The enactment of an important legislation like this provides us an opportunity. Let us not loose this opportunity also to provide relief to nearly 10 crore people who have been displaced by various infrastructure projects since independence.
Let the historic injustices committed in the name of development and public purpose be rectified. Let justice be done to them.
We do have many points of concern on the current draft of the Bill under discussion but we would like to bring your attention to some of the key provisions, with a hope that group of ministers will take those in account.
Our sincere request to you as members of the UPA government is to respect the recommendations of the all political party Parliamentary Standing Committee, which heard all stake holders including the people’s movements like ours as well as the corporate bodies and others. They recommended that :
- No agricultural land, whether single crop or multiple crops, should be forcibly acquired keeping in view the food security of the country.
- In the name of Public Purpose, the State should not be forcibly acquiring any land for the private corporation or their PPP project.
- Consent by majority of Gram Sabha members (or equivalent description in urban areas where these have been constituted) should be obtained in all matters pertaining to the Bill.
- There is no need to exempt any of the Central Acts used for land acquisition from the purview of the Bill and to bring those at par with the Bill, Government should carry required amendments.
- Any unutilsied land shall return to the land owners. \\\’Land Bank of un-fertile, waste-lands\\\’ for use by the industry or infrastructure projects should be prepared by the government not with the land remaining unutilised.
We appreciate the decision of the government to repeal the Land Acquisition Act, 1984, of British Legacy. However, we would hasten to add that the present bill continues to follow the principle of eminent domain which is questioned by people across the country. If we really want the ongoing conflicts to come to an end, then this must be dropped. In addition to endorsing the recommendations of the PSC we would like to bring to your notice the following :
1. No forced acquisition should not only be considered as an execution of the special measures in Schedule V, but it is necessary and justifiable for all communities under Article 243, in letter and spirit
2. No forciacquisition will not mean no change in land use. On the other hand, it will/should lead to bottom-up development planning. This process should include-
- A decision on whether a proposed project is of Public Purpose, i.e. serving public good, through public sector.
- What the impact will be, on land and other sources of livelihood including common property resources, on how many families, of which disadvantaged sections (such as SC/ST, marginal and small farmers, other vulnerable communities living on natural resources, or labour.)
- Alternatives and best options to avoid or minimise displacement and impact.
- A rehabilitation plan with due alternative sources of livelihood, house / habitat as a colony, compensation, as each can have inputs and consent from the affected communities.
3. Public purpose, redefined in the bill, is unacceptable since categories (i) to (v) are such that they include all water, power, infrastructure etc. projects, even if private, which is a misinterpretation or an ill-definition. No acquisition or procurement of land for private or PPP projects, even if with the consent of 80% of land owning families, should be conceived or approved. Let the consent of all the affected people, including livelihood losers be taken even for Public Purpose projects.
4. We would like only government projects to come under the purview of ‘Land use change’ (no acquisition of agricultural land) through this act, not those of the private corporations, with no urgency except in exceptional warlike situations and calamities.
5. The Act should be applicable with retrospective effect in the cases where in spite of possession having been taken substantial and / or irreversible work has not been done on the land, or where claims of R&R are still pending and remain incomplete or farmers have not accepted the compensation awarded to them.
6. It is completely unacceptable that Land Acquisition (change in land use) has now been delinked with the Resettlement and Rehabilitation completion, what is the point of then having a single Act ?
7. In the name of federal structure, the Ministry has now removed the ceiling on the land to bring in Rehabilitation and Resettlement entitlements in case of the projects where land is to be purchased by the corporate / private agencies. This is perfectly unjustifiable when on one hand government is saying that most of the land is being acquired for the private corporations only. Then what about the rights of those affected ?
8. We admit that introducing a Social Impact Assessment is a progressive step considering the large scale displacement and deprivation caused to natural resources and agriculture based communities due to the unlimited transfer of land. We have suggested some important changes in structure, composition and communities and a process to make it more people-oriented and consensual.
9. Again, in the name of the federal principles, the decision to decide the limit on agricultural land acquisition has been left to the States. Going with the PSC recommendations complete moratorium on acquiring any agricultural land for Industries which would also include single crop agriculture,horticulture, pisciculture or common property resources is a much needed step.
10. A Social Impact Assessment should go hand in hand with an Environment Impact Assessmentand multiple public hearings will not be necessary when Gram Sabha and Basti Sabhas have the proposals, impact assessments, options of R&Rand final repeal considered and approved.
11.Rehabilitation follows resettlement and is a long process. However, no impact on land/ livelihood/ property or deprivation/ displacement should be permitted to occur as a result of any project work unless a family and community receives all its entitlements. Cash entitlements should be paid after, not before in kind entitlements and any violation should be penalised in the case of SC-ST, BPL families.
12. The R&R provisions of the Act should be applicable to any kind of land acquisition done by any other existing Act, since none of those have any provisions for a just R&R.
13.Rehabilitation should ensure an alternative livelihood in the case of severely affected and disadvantaged socio economical families. Therefore, we suggest 5 acres of alternate land for these families and fisheries rights etc. to ensure livelihood as the first option. The market value should equal the highest registered deed value in the district enhance the probability of purchasing alternate land for the people.
14. We observe that the Bill at every point suggested that most of the rehabilitation entitlements will be at family level whereas it should be per person and for all of those living in the area when displacement occurs.
15. Rehabilitation should be prioritised for those who were affected in the past. The National R&R Commission should be created to address their concerns and entitlements. Rehabilitation and forcible displacement / deprivation in a large way should be avoided through the new Act, since in any case it would be a voluntary investment in lieu of development benefits.
16. Shares / debentures in profit should be over and above compensation and not out of the latter. Part of the dividend should go to the community and the rest should be divided. Similarly compensation for land should be for the loss of employment and should be additional to shares in development benefits. Employment or shares may be exclusive, i.e. either of the two should be given to a family.
We are deeply concerned by the dilution of the provisions of the Bill which was originally brought in August 2011. We were hoping from there on it will be strengthened but then it has been further diluted. As a Minister of Rural Development you should have been more concerned about our welfare than worry for the investors sentiment, urbanisation and industrialisation. We do hope you will act even now on some of the demands we have made.
Medha Patkar – Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); Prafulla Samantara – Lok Shakti Abhiyan, NAPM, Odisha; Gautam Bandopadhyay – Nadi Ghati Morcha, NAPM, Chhattisgarh; Suniti SR, Prasad Bagwe – SEZ Virodhi Manch and NAPM, Maharashtra; Gabriel Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN; Bhupendra Rawat, Rajendra Ravi, Anita Kapoor – Jan Sangharsh Vahini and NAPM, Delhi; Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, MP; Sumit Banjale, Madhuri Shivkar, Simpreet Singh – Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao Andolan, NAPM, Mumbai;Dr.Rupesh Verma – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, UP; Vimal Bhai – Matu Jan sangathan, NAPM, Uttarakhand; Vilas Bhongade – Gosikhurd Prakalpgrast Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, Maharashtra; Ramashray Singh – Ghatwar Adivasi Mahasabha, Jharkhand; Anand Mazhgaonkar, Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat