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Chhattisgarh govt cancels tribal rights over forest lands #WTFnews

Forest Rights Act allows government to divert forest lands for other purposes only after prior consent of the tribals through gram sabhas

The latter is a 100 per cent subsidiary of Adani Enterprises and RVUNL is a Rajasthan government enterprise.In an order passed on January 8, the government had cancelled the community land rights of the in the village, given under the (FRA).

The government, in the order, stated that the villagers had been using their legal rights over the forest land to stop work of mining in their village, which falls in the Parsa East and Kete Besan coal block. It is the first such order to come to light in India, where community rights of have been cancelled after being granted through the process laid down in the Business Standard reviewed the January 8 orders cancelling the land rights of the in the village.

The government and the district authorities, however, did not respond to the queries.The does not provide for revocation of either community or individual land rights once granted under the law. The law and the attendant regulations provide only for the government diverting the forest land for some other purpose after prior consent of the through their gram sabha. Under the FRA, are empowered to claim individual and community rights over forestlands they have traditionally hold on. The gram sabha of Bhatbarra did so and in September 3, 2013 they were handed over the lands by the state government.After that, the village became aware that the coal block could remain susceptible to mining despite the Supreme Court orders cancelling earlier allocations. In October 2014 the gram sabha (village council) of Ghatbarra, along with 19 other villages, took out a formal resolution opposing the mining in their lands.

Under the FRA, the gram sabha is the only authority empowered to decide the future of traditional tribal lands.The also requires that the claims and rights of all and other forest-dwellers are settled before the government looks to remove them under section 4(5) of the law and other rules.But the central government gave the clearance to divert the land for mining in 2012 without settling the rights. Business Standard reviewed the orders of the environment ministry.

One set of orders said the land would be diverted only once the rights of the and others had been settled. But then later orders (called stage 2 forest clearance) handed over the land for mining without ascertaining that the rights had actually been settled.The state government in its order dated January 8 notes (translated from Hindi): “When the administration tries to get diversion of forests done for the Parsa East and Kete Besen open coal block, the villagers, using the context of the land rights given by the collector to them, create barriers and protest to stop work.”The order notes that this was investigated by the forest department. The conservator of forests of Surguja found that the land rights were given to in 2013 while the forest clearance to RVUNL had been given in 2012.

He concluded, therefore, the community forest rights given to the could be cancelled.The district administration along with the tribal affairs and the forest department based on latter’s conclusions passed an order saying, because the land had been given in 2012 to the company for mining, it no longer classified as forestland in 2013 when it was given to under the  Consequently, the three set of authorities collectively decided that the government order handing over rights to in 2013 is cancelled.

The block has been caught up in a legal fracas over the forest clearance for other reasons as well. In 2014, the Green Tribunal (NGT) had

cancelled the forest clearance noting that the environment ministry had not looked at the impact of coal mining on biodiversity in the region, including presence of protected species such as the elephant. It asked the environment ministry to take a look again at the case. But the stay on operations was removed by the Supreme Court even as the NGT orders to relook at the clearance continued to operate. Since then the ministry has not taken a decision on the matter, records show.http://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/chhattisgarh-govt-cancels-tribal-rights-over-forest-lands-116021601327_1.html#.WoeQn9ypP04.facebook

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Odisha – School students cry CISF ‘assault’

 

Students of Gobarghati Ashram School staging protest on Monday | Express

Tension ran high in Kalinga Nagar Industrial Complex after security personnel deployed at Tata Steel plant allegedly assaulted 33 students and two teachers of a Government-run residential high school here on Sunday night.Protesting the assault, students of Gobarghati Ashram School along with their parents blocked National Highway-53 near the main gate of Tata Steel on Monday. Due to the blockade, which started from 8 am, vehicular traffic between Kalinga Nagar and Chandikhole was paralysed.

“The CISF jawans deployed at Tata Steel plant barged into our school premises on Sunday night and attacked the inmates without any provocation. We demand stern action against the security personnel who trespassed into an educational institution exclusively meant for tribal students in the night,” said a student of the residential school. “We will not withdraw the road blockade and agitation unless our demand is fulfilled,” he said.

Though the exact reason behind the assault by CISF jawans is yet to be ascertained, it is believed that the move of the Central security personnel came after some students pelted stones at their camp located close to the residential school.Following the attack, the students and teachers sustained injuries and were admitted to the local hospital at Danagadi, sources said.

On being informed about the road blockade, police reached the spot to take stock of the situation. Jajpur SP Charan Singh Meena said students and teachers of the school have blocked the road alleging assault by CISF jawans. “We are investigating the matter and holding discussion with the agitators for an amicable solution,” he said.Adequate police force has been deployed at the site to keep a close watch  on the situation. A host of police officials led by Additional SP of Kalinga Nagar are camping at the protest site. The road blockade was continuing till reports last came in.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2018/feb/20/school-students-cry-cisf-assault-1776055.html

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Mumbai – Aarey tribals reject state govt’s offer of rehabilitation

MUMBAI: Tribals from three hamlets in Aarey Colony have refused to be shifted elsewhere as part of the Force One Rehabilitation plan.

At a meeting with minister of state for Housing-Ravindra Waikar, who is also the local MLA, on Saturday, tribals demanded they be given basic amenities in their existing padas. Waikar said this is the first of the many discussions the government plans to have with tribals to convince them to move out.

“Our ancestors lived here. In 1956 we were given formal approval to till the land. Now we are being treated like slum-dwellers and evicted. It is not just about a house, what about our land, our trees?” asked Prakash Bhoir, a resident of Kelti Pada.

When the state government carved out around 100 acres from Aarey Colony for Force One (an anti-terrorism squad) the land included Kelti Pada, Damu Pada (also called Kelti Pada -2) and Chafyacha Pada. Residents said they are constantly pressurised by Force One to move out.

Rakesh Panekar, a resident of Kelti pada along with Namita Bhoir, Hemu Vangad, Guni Warli complained they are not allowed to repair their homes, cut a tree for their needs and are constantly harassed by Force One officials.

Waikar said he has replaced the Force One official the tribals had to deal with. While he claimed that the tribals were willing to move to the five acres identified for their rehabilitation, the tribals denied it.

“Since Aarey Colony is a Green Zone, it is not possible to give them basic amenities such as electricity, toilets etc. The government has decided to provide them 480 sq feet homes on the five acre plot identified for the purpose. As for their land, it will be decided later,” he said.

Bhoir said he is part of the committee that was set up by the government in 2010. “It was then decided to give the three padas 32 acres which we refused and now they want us to settle for five acres. The tribal department has done nothing for the residents of Naushyacha pada who were shifted for the Veterinary College in 1978. The residents even today have no basic amenities,” he said.

Sanjay Padavi, resident of Prajapur Pada, was shifted along with 70 other families to a slum rehab building in Chakala in 2016. “The Metro III plan speaks of a special rehabilitation package for tribals. Instead we have been pushed into 269 sq feet homes. We do not want to live like this. We want our land back,” he said.https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/aarey-tribals-reject-state-governments-offer-of-rehabilitation/articleshow/62964157.cms

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Tamil Nadu – Thoothukudi residents resist Sterlite expansion

Thoothukudi Sterlite protest

Children’s placards read: ‘Sterlite: mercy killers’

15th February.  On Monday up to 500 people declared a hunger strike and indefinite protest against the planned expansion of Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite’s copper smelter in Thoothukudi (Tuticorin), Tamil Nadu. Two days into the protest police rounded up and arrested 270 people including many women and children, eventually releasing all except eight so-called ringleaders including social worker and Anti Sterlite Struggle Federation Coordinator Professor Fatima Babu, who are still being held by police. Large groups of school children and their mothers made up the majority of the protest. Their placards and statements to the media demand an end to years of toxic pollution from the plant, which is causing respiratory diseases and fainting, especially affecting the children, with long term consequences to their health. Water is also being polluted, and huge amounts used by the plant, in an already water-stressed area.

Pollution from Sterlite plant pictured this week

Pollution from Sterlite plant pictured this week raining down on communities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sterlite, which was the first company set up by Anil Agarwal, before he launched Vedanta Resources in London, has already started construction of a new 4 million tonne/year smelter in the town, nearly doubling its existing capacity. Following its usual pattern and demonstrating its sense of legal impunity, the company does not yet have full Environmental Clearance for the new construction. Sterlite’s existing smelter is a second hand plant from Chile, built in the SIPCOT industrial park, just outside of Thoothukudi town in 1996, after being turned down by Ratnagiri in Maharastra due to pollution fears. In 2013 a major leak of sulphur gas from the plant affected thousands in the town, leading to mass protests by local taxi and fishermens trade unions among others, and the temporary closure of the plant. Journalists and local people have reported on illegal waste dumps around the town, and in the sea, and investigations of port data revealed that Vedanta were using highly contaminated imported copper concentrates, producing 2.2 tonnes of uranium and 441 tonnes of arsenic between 2009 and 2010 alone. The plant emits sulphur dioxide, arsenic and heavy metals into the surrounding area.

Thoothukudi Sterlite protestOn 15th Feb Tuticorin social activists handed over a petition to the District Collector, Venkadesh, demanding the release of the imprisoned protesters. The letter stated:

‘In Tuticorin District water, land and air and everything is being polluted by the Sterlite establishment. The people protesting peacefully against the expansion of the plant were charged and imprisoned by the police. Take action to release them immediately and withdraw the charges. Action must be taken to stop the police pressure and atrocities unleashed on innocent people fighting for their rights.’

In September 2017 the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued a judgment, following the show cause notice they had issued to Sterlite in March 2017 for several instances of toxic waste dumping and pollution as well as operating the smelter above its consented capacity. Many tonnes of copper slag were found dumped in the Upper Odai river, which Sterlite claimed they had sold to a developer for levelling of a construction site. The Upper stream was also blocked with toxic copper slag causing a ‘manmade disaster’.

Thoothukudi Sterlite protestThe judgment reveals that Sterlite had expanded the smelting capacity of the plant without permission, and had operated without authorisation under the Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008 between 9.7.2013 and 24.8.2017. SO2 pollution was being experienced by local residents, who were experiencing stinging in the nose and difficulty breathing as a result. Despite these issues the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had renewed Sterlite’s consent to operate under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, on 7.9.2017, leading the local residents, represented by advocate V. Ramasubbu to complain to the NGT, asking for compensation for pollution and environmental damage.

The applicants in the case also claimed that the TNPCB and Central Pollution Control Board (CPBC) had conspired to seal the Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Station (CAAQMS), which is supposed to monitor the Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) and other noxious gases emitted from the smelter, rendering its data useless. Though this was denied by the CPCB the NGT reserved judgment on the issue, noting that ‘it is as if the grievances of the applicant has no redressal and he is left in lurch’, and suggested the NGT or TNPCB could investigate the claims.       Download the full judgment here.

The judgment again highlights the ongoing sense of impunity held by Sterlite, which has continuously operated without various consents, and flagrantly violated environmental laws over the years, with the clear collusion of the TNPCB. In April 2013, following closure of the plant after the town-wide pollution incident which led to mass protests, the Supreme Court of India had imposed a Rs. 100 Crore fine on Sterlite for operating the plant without environmental consent between 1997 – 2012.

Freddy Muntete East 1st StreetMeanwhile in Chingola, Zambia, Vedanta’s sister copper smelter was set up only 50m from a residential street. Residents of East 1st Street and the surrounding area have repeatedly had their homes filled with toxic fumes, and their walls cracking from explosions inside the smelter. Foil Vedanta activists found their eyes stinging and itching, and developed headaches and nosebleeds when visiting both Tuticorin and the East 1st Street area of Chingola. The long term impacts are unimaginable.

The article from The News Minute, and videos from Tamil Nadu news below detail the protest.

Sterlite protest TuticorinWomen’s statement from protest against Sterlite

 

 

Sterlite protest TuticorinMass arrests at Tuticorin

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How corporate land grab is sought to be legitimized in Chhattisgarh by misusing legal framework

 

By Sudha Bharadwaj*

There would be little doubt in the mind of even the most cursory observer of contemporary events in Chhattisgarh, that the most burning issue agitating the peasantry and adivasis there today, is displacement on an unprecedented scale – for mining, setting up of industries, dams, sanctuaries, four laning of highways, the posh capital region, and even army and air bases.

Whether it be the sponge-iron belt of Raipur, the cement belt between Raipur and Bilaspur, the coal mines of Koriya, bauxite mines of Sarguja, the power plants of Korba, and above all “Jindal-land” – Raigarh – where the writ of the Jindal company runs – all these areas have been witness to widespread displacement, shockingly inadequate rehabilitation and compensation, and devastation of the environment particularly the clearing of pristine forests, toxic air pollution, drying up of water sources and dumping of ash in the past decade.

But now the pace and extent of the land grab has increased vastly, with not an inch of largely tribal Jashpur left unaffected by prospecting and mining licenses; 34 power plants coming up in the district Janjgir; and 7 cement plants in the newly formed district of Baloda Bazar where units of multinationals Holcim and Lafarge and of the Birla group – Ultratech, Grasim and Century are already situated.

In the entire mineral rich region of Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, where even non-Naxal areas (Posco, Kathikund, Kalinganagar, Narayanpatna, Potka) are seeing brutal police repression, mining seems to be the motivating factor for a ground clearing of the adivasis – if necessary by war, as in Dantewada.

However, the present note does not seek to document the above in any detail, but only deals with a very specific aspect of the above process, namely the legal framework in which it is sought to be legitimized, and some of the serious issues that the “legal face” of this land grab raises. The understanding of these legal processes has come, not so much from an academic study of law, but from our experiences as a group of lawyers organized as “Janhit Peoples’ Legal Resource Centre” in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, which tries to provide group legal aid to peoples’ movements, village committees, NGOs, Trade unions etc.

Implementation of the PESA Act

The PESA (Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas)) Act mandates that in the Scheduled Areas the Gram Sabha must be consulted prior to commencing any project in the village and particularly in the case of any activity involving acquisition/ alienation of land. The Gram Sabha is specially empowered to act to prevent land alienation and to restore land unlawfully alienated from a tribal villager.

In practice, either  the Gram Sabhas are never informed nor consulted or else people are terrorized into silent acquiescence, or else, easier still, “No Objection Certificates” are forged. Petitions raising the issue of the enforceability of PESA, such as in Lohandiguda Bastar where the Tata Steel was to set up a steel plant, are pending in the High Court but in the meanwhile adivasis are being continually displaced. Here we present two case studies of villages which did try to assert their rights under the PESA Act:

The case of Premnagar:

Premnagar is a village in the Scheduled area of district Sarguja in North Chhattisgarh, where the organization “Gram Sabha Parishad” is active. This village shot into prominence when despite repeated and all sided efforts by the IFFCO to set up a power plant, they failed because of the resistance of the villagers. On 14 occasions the Gram Sabha passed resolutions refusing land for the project, there was vociferous opposition in the environmental public hearing and when the village leaders were arrested, there was a massive gherao of the thana forcing the police to release them.

The administration thereupon struck upon the diabolically clever idea of making the village a “Nagar Panchayat”, thus doing away with the Gram Sabha altogether and effectively short-circuiting the rights of adivasis in a Scheduled area! No matter that it is explicitly stated in Article 243ZC of the Constitution that nothing in the Part IX-A on Municipalities is applicable to the Scheduled Areas. In the past few years hundreds of Nagar Panchayats have been created illegally and unconstitutionally in the Scheduled Areas. Our group “Janhit” is helping the villagers of Premnagar to challenge this unconstitutional act of the Chhattisgarh State.

SECL is demanding damages from adivasis!

The adivasis of Village Choura, district Sarguja under the leadership of the Bharat Jan Andolan had been protesting because, when their lands were compulsorily acquired for mining under the project Mahan-II by the South Eastern Coalfields Limited – a Public Sector Mining Enterprise – not only was the PESA Act violated in that the Gram Sabha was not consulted before such acquisition, but the SECL submitted a forged Gram Sabha resolution to obtain clearances. About 5,000 adivasis of nearby villages decided to march to the Mines Offices to protest on 26th December 2009 (Gram Ganrajya Divas – the day the PESA Act was notified.).

The SECL, which has illegally begun mining and destroyed the livelihoods and environment of the adivasi villagers that are probably not measurable in monetary terms, is suing them for the loss of production on that day! A civil suit has been filed by the South Eastern Coalfields Ltd. against 6 adivasis for recovery of 36 lakhs with 9% interest! The defendants include Jangsay – a young adivasi leader of the Bharat Jan Andolan. Needless to say the villages are gradually organizing to see that the future expansion under Mahan III and Mahan IV cannot be carried out without compliance with PESA. Again “Janhit” is helping them to defend themselves and file counter cases on SECL.

Violation of provisions for non-alienation of tribal land

The Chhattisgarh Land Revenue Code prohibits the transfer of tribal lands to non-tribals vide Section 170(B).Indeed there are many similar provisions, laws, regulations in different states applying to tribal areas or tribal owned lands prohibiting the alienation of tribal land to non-tribals.

The celebrated majority judgment of “Samatha Vs State of Andhra Pradesh” (AIR 1997 SC 3297) has clearly laid down the constitutional logic to the demarcation of the Scheduled areas and the centrality of non-alienation of tribal land in the constitutional scheme, and also prohibited the transfer of government land – forest lands, common lands etc. to any other except a State entity or a Co-operative Society of tribal members. It is interesting that while the Samatha judgment has not been overturned or referred to a larger Bench, several smaller/ co-ordinate Benches have, in the passing i.e without specifically framing the same issue, made deprecating or dissenting comments about this judgment. This ambivalent attitude of the judiciary in “winking” at the transfer of government and forest lands to private parties, particularly mining companies, is a major factor in legitimizing corporate land grab of forest lands and in the Scheduled areas.

The strange case of Janki Sidar:

Two pieces of land in the name of this adivasi woman in the district Raigarh, a Scheduled Area, were fraudulently registered in the name of Monnet Steel (headed by a brother-in-law of Naveen Jindal) in the year 2000 by putting up another woman as Janki Sidar and registering the land in the name of a non-existent adivasi called Amar Singh, of course with the unstinted co-operation of the revenue authorities.

When Janki filed an FIR for fraud, she was fortunate that at the time the City Superintendent of Police was not a “company man”, so a Manager of the Monnet Steel – Shubendu Dey and sundry ‘zameen dalals’ were actually sent to jail for about 3 months before they got bail. The CSP was suitably rewarded by being transferred to Bastar.

The Revision Application filed by the non-existent adivasi in the year 2001 against the case filed by the State under Section 170B of the Land Revenue Code for restoration of the alienated tribal land – with no signature on the application, no vakalatnama, and no appearance in court for 10 years but of course being represented by the most top notch lawyers in Raigarh – remained pending in the court for 10 years despite repeated pleas on Janki’s part for it to be dismissed, until it was taken up by the “Janhit team”. However then, because the record had in the meantime been summoned by the Revenue Board, the original file became untraceable.

A writ petition filed by Janki Sidar in the High Court in the year 2011 was summarily dismissed by Justice TP Sharma at the motion stage. Finally the Writ Appeal before a Division Bench resulted in an enquiry against some clerical staff and permission to Janki to file afresh the Application under Section 170B. The pleas for compensation and enquiry against the erring Revenue Officers for the delay of 10 years were rejected. The application has been filed and we still await restoration of her land.

Janki Sidar alleges that many state officers, from Patwaris to Collectors, made a pretty buck in the course of her case, not to mention at least 7 lawyers whom she engaged from time to time only to be cheated. She talks of her village on the Orissa border where many liquor shops have been set up and it is common knowledge that in a certain Pushpa Lodge at 12 at night, land registries are carried out. The Patwari of her village, while updating her Land Record in the “Rinn Pustika” actually made one of her land plots vanish!

There are many Jankis. There is Haripriya Patel on whose land at Tapranga Jindal built a colony and then the Jindal security guards lathicharged the protesting villagers while the policemen remained mute spectators. There is Shivlal Sav, a “Nagar Sainik” on whose land Jindal dumped about a hundred dumpers of dust and built a cooling tower. He has an order of ‘removal of encroachment’ from the Collector, but so what? When he approached the High Court he was shocked to find that his land had been acquired 5 years after his complaint for the public purpose of ‘tree plantation’ and the acquisition has been upheld in public purpose.

Recently the son of the adivasi Home Minister – Shri Nankiram Kanwar – was caught red-handed using his adivasi status for transferring land of adivasis in favour of the Videocon company for setting up a power plant. Recently Videocon had flown in actor Salman Khan for the Chhattisgarh State’s “Birthday Celebrations” on 1st November in Raipur, and the entire Cabinet stood enraptured while he delivered his five minute dialogues from Dabang, exhorted the people of Chhattisgarh to co-operate with Videocon and flew back. All this would have been quite amusing had the consequences not been so devastating for the livelihoods of so many.

Mining without consent

“Coal” falls in Part A of The First Schedule of Specified Minerals as annexed to “The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957” and Section 4 holds that no person shall undertake any prospecting or mining operation in any area except under a prospecting license or mining lease granted in accordance with provisions of the Act and the rules thereunder. The Central Government has accordingly framed “The Mineral Concession Rules, 1960” under this Act which provide for grant of mining lease.

Since the Chhattisgarh Land Revenue Code lays down that all minerals below the surface belong to the State, so proceedings are conducted under Section 247(4) of the Code for the purpose of computation of compensation for “surface rights” and for ensuring the payment of such compensation prior to mining activity. However, they do not govern either the grant of mining lease or the legality of mining operations which are governed by the over-riding provisions of “The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957” being a Central Act occupying the field. Thus a proceeding under Section 247(4) does not do away with the mandatory grant of consent by private land owners for the grant of mining lease or commencement of mining operations as laid out in the aforesaid Central Act and the Rules thereunder.

Thus the legal position is absolutely clear. Land is not acquired for prospecting/ mining in public purpose. Theoretically the company enters into a lease agreement and is bound to return the land after the lease period in as nearly the original condition as possible. The application for either license specifically asks “Does the applicant have surface rights?” and “If not, has the consent of the owner and occupier been obtained?”

In practice, the State utilizes the loophole that consent can be granted even after the lease deed is executed, though actually by the Rules, an incomplete application has to be corrected within 30 days after a notice to that effect has been served, otherwise it is to be rejected. We have obtained a large number of applications made by Jindal Steel and Power, DB Power Group etc. for mining leases. All these applications state against the column “Does the applicant have surface rights?” – No, and against the following query “If not, has the consent of the owner and occupier been obtained?” – “Shall be obtained as and when required”!! A lease deed is issued on the basis of this incomplete application and on the basis of the lease deed, a newspaper notice is published asking the private landowners to come and collect their compensation under Section 247 of the Land Revenue Code to be calculated as per the Land Acquisition Act. The people, feeling that they have been served with a fait accompli and if they refuse the compensation it would be deposited in the treasury, accept the compensation, which is then interpreted as consent to mining.  This is the mechanism by which the state machinery is used to coerce people to give up land.

So far, the experience of peasants in Chhattisgarh is that no land, even that mined by the public sector coal companies like SECL, has been returned to the peasants at all, let alone in its original condition. The record for compensatory afforestation and for dealing with environmental damage is dismal. In Sarguja, where the private Hindalco company took lands of the peasants on lease for mining bauxite through an agreement entered into by the Collector, the conditions of the peasants being paid yearly rent exceeding what they would have normally  gained from agriculture has been blatantly violated. And if at all the displaced adivasi peasants have got employment in the mines, it is as temporary and contractual miners.

From a colonial Land Acquisition Act to … even worse?

The British Land Acquisition Act distinguishes between acquisition for public purpose and acquisition for companies. In the latter there are elaborate rules to be mandatorily followed including an inquiry into various aspects – whether there exist alternatives to acquiring agricultural land, whether the company has made adequate efforts to purchase the land etc. – and also the company has to enter into an agreement with the State Government inter alia ensuring compliance with the rehabilitation policy of the State. In practice it is being presumed that acquisition for a company is an acquisition for public purpose, a notion that though struck down by the recent judgement of the Allahabad High Court in the Reliance Dadri case, still continues nevertheless.

The only notional protection for people in the present, indeed draconian, Land Acquisition Act is the right to register objections under Section 5A, though of course such objections need not be given any “reasoned” consideration, but courts of law have insisted that since precious property rights are sought to be taken away by this expropriatory legislation, Section 5A must be strictly complied with.

But again, in practice, often Section 17, or the “urgency clause”, is invoked, and under sub clause (4) of this, the rights under Section 5A are done away with. The indiscriminate invoking of this urgency clause, whenever the State perceives a resistance to acquisition from people, has become common in Chhattisgarh and requires to be challenged. Interestingly a notification dated 31.01.2000 of the Madhya Pradesh Government, equally applicable to Chhattisgarh, clarifies that the mandatory consultation under PESA with the Gram Sabha would be applicable even in emergency acquisition proceedings under Section 17 of the Land Acquisition Act. Again this is violated with impunity. Some of the grounds taken in one of the many cases taken up by the Janhit team in regard to land acquisition of a private coal-based thermal power plant in the critically polluted district of Korba are given below:

Some of the Grounds taken in a PIL filed against the Vandana Power Plant by the villagers of Chhurikala, district Korba:

  • For the reason that an acquisition which was initiated vide the Memo of the Collector dated 28.11.2007 as an acquisition “for industrial purpose” could not have been converted into an acquisition “for public purpose” vide the Memo of the Collector dated 28.04.2008  in a colorable exercise of authority, only to bypass the unanimous opposition of the Gram Sabhas.
  • For the reason that the Nagar Panchayat Chhurikala lies in a Scheduled area, therefore compliance with the provisions of the PESA Act were mandatory.
  • For the reason that when the acquisition was for a company, the provisions of Part VII of the Land Acquisition Act ought to have been strictly complied with, including the compliance of Rule 4 of the Land Acquisition (for Companies) Rules, the agreement under Section 41 etc.
  • For the reason that invoking of Section 17 of the Land Acquisition Act by the Collector, Korba, and also the invoking of Section 17(4) to dispense with the hearing of objections under Section 5A was unreasonable, without any material basis and in a colorable exercise of authority, only to benefit the Respondent Company.
  • For the reason that the Land Acquisition Act being an expropriatory legislation, its provisions must be strictly complied with, in letter and spirit.
  • For the reason that the Respondent Company could never have been appointed as “Officer” for the purpose of enquiry under Section 4(2) of the Land Acquisition Act.
  • For the reason that the Respondent Collector Korba as well as the SDO/ Land Acquisition Officer ought to have made an application of mind and granted effective hearing to the objections made by the affected villagers under Section 9 of the Act and not simply sent them to the company and accepted the replies made by the company.
  • For the reason that the permission for establishment obtained by the Respondent Company on the basis of fraudulent and fabricated documents, claiming that Certificates of No-Objection have been issued by various Gram Panchayats and also the Gram Sabhas, cannot be sustained.
  • For the reason that the Tehsildar could not have issued Notices coercing the affected villagers into accepting compensation.

Tragically, although the new proposed Land Acquisition Bill was brought on the anvil ostensibly because of the fierce country wide resistance of the peasantry against land acquisition, far from addressing any of the above serious legal issues, it appears that the new Bill could actually facilitate corporate land grab.

We quote an excerpt of a joint critique of several peoples’ movements and political groups:

  • The 2011 Bill does nothing at all to plan or regulate land use. Instead, it gives an arbitrary license to acquire up to 5% of multi crop irrigated land without assessing projects in terms of their impact on food security. The earlier draft required that projects be the “least displacing” option; this has also been removed. The Constitutional powers of municipalities and panchayats over planning are simply ignored.
  • A hand-picked “state level committee” consisting almost entirely of bureaucrats makes all decisions.  A “social impact assessment” is to be done, but who will do it, and how, is unclear.  In fact the SIA is a mirror image of the discredited environment impact assessment process, which Shri Jairam Ramesh himself described as a farce. The SIA can neither consider the rehabilitation plan, nor whether the project is the “least displacing” alternative, nor the question of public purpose – yet the State level committee is supposed to decide all this based on its report.  Various public hearings and gram sabha consultations are suggested, but these are a mere formality; the views raised in them are not given any importance subsequently.
  • In the 2011 Bill, the definition of public purpose has been widened even further so that even real estate is exempt from 80% consent by the phrase “any site in the urban area”. Projects that are in “public interest” (which is not defined) or that “produce goods or services for the public” become public purpose. Is there any economic activity which does not satisfy these requirements? Thus land acquisition for practically any project, private or public, will be possible, only subject sometimes to the dubious “80% consent” requirement. Instead of making the process more rational, the Bill is opening acquisition to a free for all, giving private companies access to the state machinery for purposes identified by them. The Bill contradicts itself by first declaring that no change of purpose will be permitted (Cl. 93); and then reverting unutilised land to the government “land bank” (Cl. 95). What is this if not a change of purpose? This is an incentive to acquire large tracts of land on plausible grounds and hold them for later use.
  • The Bill says that “consent of 80% of the affected families” will be required for some types of acquisition. But it provides no procedure for taking this consent, for determining if it is given frely, for deciding what happens if consent cannot be obtained, and for deciding whose consent is to be taken.  The Bill provides no sound way for deciding who is affected and who is not; indeed no listing is even made until much later.  This is an open invitation for forgery and manipulation.  And when will consent be sought? Besides, those being asked for their consent cannot be told about rehabilitation as the package is not even drafted till much later. Besides, to get around this, all that private companies need to do is acquire a little land and approach the government for “partial acquisition” (which could even be for 99% of the total area) (clause 8 proviso read with clause 2(2)).
  • Those affected cannot approach local courts – they have to go only to a government appointed State or Central authority, thus undermining the separation of executive and judicial functions. This body can only award increased compensation, and can only be approached through the Collector (Cl. 58). Further, even if the law is violated, the acquisition will go ahead, as Clause 57 bars any court from issuing any stay order. . So if R&R is not provided, people will be displaced anyway, and can spend the rest of their lives chasing their rights in the Authority or courts (if they have the resources to do so). There is a negative provision limiting the scope of intervention by the High Court and Supreme Court…
  • The last straw comes at the very end – Clause 98 and the accompanying Fourth Schedule. After grandly stating that this law will create a new, just process of acquisition, these clauses exempt a whole range of activities – SEZs, coal mines, highways, uranium mines, railways etc. – from this law entirely. This is at a time when SEZs and mines have been sites of bloody, violent conflict across the country.

When we look back on the agitations at Jagatsinghpur, Odisha; Nandigram, West Bengal; Raigarh, Maharashtra; Dadri and Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh; Dumka, Jharkhand; or Lohandiguda, Bastar etc. and the many Court verdicts that came in some of those cases which were rare examples of the Courts taking a pro-active stance in interpreting the colonial Act in favour of the peasantry and striking down “colourable exercise” of “powers of eminent domain”, it appears that the present Bill is not only not in consonance with the resounding demands of the peasantry, but is also being passed to restrict the intervention of the judiciary which, for a change, had struck a disharmonious chord in the globalization chorus!

Losing communal natural resources

Another serious livelihood issue intrinsically linked with acquisition for companies, mines etc. is the impact on the environment – on the air, water, soil, forest cover etc. There are a number of provisions in the Forest Act designed to preserve forest cover – particularly to ensure the non diversion of forest land to any other purpose. The “Green Bench” of the Supreme Court (the celebrated TN Godavarman case) in fact monitors this all over the country. Unfortunately recent decisions by this Bench – the “Niyamgiri” case is one in point where the Bench overruled its own Centrally Empowered Committee’s report – have often been in favour of companies and then, since they carry the weight of the apex judicial forum, have become unchallengable.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests has a detailed procedure for a project of the “A” category (having significant environmental impact) to get environmental clearance – an Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) lays down terms of reference; the company accordingly gets a Summary EIA Report prepared; then the same is supposed to be widely disseminated; a public hearing takes place in which the project affected and environmental NGOs can voice their concerns; the local State Pollution Control Board forwards the modified EIA Report; and then finally the EAC grants the environmental clearance.

In practice, there is a fatal defect in the law. There is no locus of a citizen to enforce the pollution laws until the clearance has actually been granted, after which the National Green Tribunal, located at New Delhi, could be moved. Data shows that in only an insignificant proportion of cases filed, is a clearance actually set aside. Enforcement is solely left to pollution control authorities of the State and Union governments.

In today’s situation where the corporates have a stranglehold over all state institutions, this has meant in practice that every public hearing ends in clearance, no matter that the affected persons might have protested vociferously, or might have been dispersed by lathi charge, or that the project proponents and authorities might have been forced to run to save their lives! Where the law gives such limited scope for intervention it is a virtually impossible task to challenge the bogus “public hearings” and “clearances”. With the help of determined and untiring environmental activists who use the Right to Information Act effectively to expose the lacunae of procedure, Janhit is attempting this.

Implementation of the Forest Rights Act

The Preamble to the Forest Rights Act speaks of correcting historic injustices and seeks to provide rights – both individual and communal to tribal people and other traditional forest dwellers to live in, cultivate in, gather forest produce in and maintain nistari rights in forests – which since the British era have in the legal framework become “State property” and in which framework the adivasis, who have lived in and co-existed with the forests for centuries, have become “encroachers”. The critics of the Act rightly point out that the Act tries to limit and to privatize/ individualize ownership of forest lands, yet no doubt precious rights have been sought to be recognized by this Act. Chhattisgarh claims to be the “No. 1” State in FRA implementation, however the ground reality reveals something else together, namely:

  1. Around 50% of all claims filed were rejected and the total land for which pattas have been granted are less than estimates made of forest encroachments in the erstwhile State of Madhya Pradesh 20 years ago!
  2. No community rights applications were accepted or processed and in fact were not even provided.
  3. The centrality of the Gram Sabha in initiating the process of granting of forest rights; and the fact that, in the Act, the Gram Sabha is the investigating and certifying authority with regard to whether a forest dweller has been settled on certain land and the period and extent of such settlement has been disregarded in the process. As a result it is the Forest Department that has been the verifying or certifying authority.
  4. The provisions in the Forest Rights Act that explicitly lay down that the determination of the rights must be carried out prior to any displacement even when a Forest is declared a Reserve Forest/ Eco-sensitive Area, is of course being violated with impunity. The case of the adivasis displaced from various Reserve Forests such as Achanakmar (district Bilaspur), Udanti (district Dhamtari) or Badalkhol (district Jashpur) are obvious.

However, the issue of greatest concern is that, during the period when the process of determination of the Forest Rights of a forest dwelling community is underway, such communities – particularly adivasis and dalits are being forcibly displaced – despite again explicit provisions prohibiting this. This can be seen clearly in the cases below:

Case of the Singhdev Yojana and adivasis of Ambikapur – neither here nor there

The State is on a demolition spree in Village Gangapur, right next to the Ambikapur town, in the Scheduled area of district Sarguja. Despite repeated resolutions of the Gram Sabha, the Tehsildar arrived with a posse of police personnel and demolished the houses of a dozen Oraon families, handing them a 7 day show cause notice after the demolition had been carried out! The demolition is ostensibly been carried out for the Tribal Welfare Department!

In 1968-69, a scheme called the “Singhdev Yojana” had been initiated in Sarguja (the erstwhile Rajas of Sarguja were of the Singhdev family, and even today they are the MLAs of the area). In a sense this was a prophetic predecessor of the Forest Rights Act since it entailed denotifying forest lands which had been occupied and cultivated by adivasis for generations, converting them to Revenue land and fixing a Land Revenue on them in preparation for grant of pattas. But, as often happens with government schemes, the pattas never came. So for the past 40-45 years the adivasis, whose successors/ heirs had their houses demolished recently as “encroachers”, had been paying Land Revenue!

The greatest irony is that today Vijay Kujur, Lalsu Kujur, Butul Xalxo and others who have suffered cannot even apply under the Forest Rights Act, since the land is no longer forest land. So they are neither here nor there…the historic injustice, referred to in the Preamble of the Forest Rights Act, continues in a different form. The villagers of Gangapur apprehend that the “tod phod” has some vested interest behind it, and it must be a way to hand over such land, now made prime by proximity to Ambikapur town, eventually to private persons.

Case of dalit families of Village Chichour-Umariya, district Raigarh

The standing crops in 60 acres of land of dalits Ganda- Ghasiya communities were grazed by cattle let loose by the dominant caste of the village in leadership of the husband of the woman Sarpanch of the village. Around 5 homes were ransacked and harvested-chopped crops kept in the courtyard of the dalit families were burnt. Though 5 families have received notices for demolition of their houses on account of encroachment, but the fact is that these dalit families had been occupying land classified as “Chote Jhad Ka Jungle” for the past 40 to 50 years and were awaiting decision on their application for regular pattas under the Forest Rights Act.

Their livelihoods are based only on cultivation of these small piece of lands and as household helps. The husband of the sarpanch and other powerful persons abused the authority of the gram panchayat in order to enforce resolutions calling for a complete social boycott of the dalits from the village for some time, i.e. – no one was allowed to communicate with the dalits on pain of a fine of rupees 1000; doctors were not allowed to give any medical services to them; the provision stores and ration shops were prohibited to sell them any commodities. The written complaints given by the dalits revealing cognizable offences were not registered as FIR by the police including the Thana Pusaur and SP of the district.

The Gram Panchayat in this case has misused an Order passed by the Collector, based on erroneous interpretation and application of the order of the Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. 1132/2011 in SLP(C) 3109/2011, directing removal of encroachments. Whereas the above Supreme Court order had directed the removal of encroachments of common village land grabbed by unscrupulous persons using money power, muscle power or political clout for personal aggrandizement at the cost of village community, and in fact the judgment had specifically mentioned that there were exception to this rule which permitted the Gram Sabha/Gram Panchayat to lease out some of these lands to landless laborers and members of the scheduled caste/tribes, the Collector’s Order makes the exception the rule and vice versa!

*Janhit Peoples’ Legal Resource Centre, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh

These are excerpts from the paper “The Legal Face of Corporate Land Grab in Chhattisgarh”. Click HERE for full paper

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#Goodnews -Australian govt will not finance Adani group’s rail link project #StopAdani

Adani has sought a 900 million dollar concessional loan for rail to link the Carmichael mine to port.

Press Trust of India, Sydney
A protester holds a sign as he participates in a national Day of Action against Adani’s planned coal mine project in northeast Australia at Bondi Beach last October.
A protester holds a sign as he participates in a national Day of Action against Adani’s planned coal mine project in northeast Australia at Bondi Beach last October.(Reuters File Photo)

The Australian government said on Sunday it would not finance Adani group’s rail-link project that supports the Indian energy giant’s 16.5 billion dollars Carmichael coal mine, according to a media report.

Adani has sought a 900 million dollar concessional loan for rail to link the Carmichael mine to port. The announcement by minister Karen Andrews could spell the end of the project entirely if it can’t secure private finance.

Andrews, the assistant minister for vocational education and skills, said that since “all the approvals are already in place for the Adani mine” it was now “just a financing issue for Adani” whether the mine goes ahead.

“Let’s be clear, though, given the position that the Labor state government took to the last election and their election, there won’t be financing from the federal government,” Andrews was quoted as saying by Sky News Australia.

Asked to confirm there would not be federal financing, she said: “No, it won’t be proceeding. For there to be money available from the Naif (Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility), that would require the support from the Queensland Labor government”.

She further clarified that the advice she has been given by the resource minister and given the position the Labor government took to last year’s state election there won’t be financing from the federal government for this rail line

Nevertheless, Andrews talked up the benefits of the mine, labelling it “very important for employment and jobs in northern Australia” and said she would like to see it proceed.

There was no immediate reaction from the Adani group.

The Labor leader, Bill Shorten, stepped up the opposition’s rhetoric on the Adani mine last week, first refusing to rule out stopping the project on Tuesday and then on Friday threatening the mine’s licence in a bid to boost the party’s environmental credentials for the Batman by-election.

Before its re-election last year, the Queensland Labor government promised to veto Adani’s application for a loan from the Naif.

Federal Labor, which has already ruled out providing a public subsidy or loan to the Adani mine, is now looking at further measures to block it.

The Carmichael project, expected to create hundreds of jobs in Australia, has been facing opposition from environmentalists and indigenous groups.

The Adani Group has for over five years battled the opposition to any expansion of the Abbot Point port, saying it will cut into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

The Adani group entered Australia in 2010 with the purchase of the greenfield Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland, and the Abbot Point port near Bowen in the north.

Adani Australia currently employs over 800 people and has invested over $3.3 billion in Queensland, which is the biggest investments by an Indian company in Australia, the company said on its website.

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India – Tribal development scheme reduced to tokenism

Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana was introduced in 2014 for the overall development of tribal communities


                    On December, 12, 2016, the Minister of Tribal Affairs, Jaswantsinh Sumanbhai Bhabhor told the Lok Sabha that Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana will only retain a token sum of Rs 1 crore.Credit: Vikas/CSE
 On December, 12, 2016, the Minister of Tribal Affairs, Jaswantsinh Sumanbhai Bhabhor told the Lok Sabha that Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana will only retain a token sum of Rs 1 crore.Credit: Vikas/CSE

Three years after the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) introduced Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana (VKY), a new scheme for the overall development of tribal communities, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) has cut back the entire fund allocated to states.

While in 2014 the scheme was implemented in 10 states with Rs 100 crore allocated to each state, in 2015-16, it was implemented in 21 states with an allocation for Rs 200 crore to each state.

However, in 2016-17, the allocation to VKY was slashed. On December12, 2016, the Minister of Tribal Affairs, Jaswantsinh Sumanbhai Bhabhor told the Lok Sabha that the scheme will only retain a token sum of Rs 1 crore.

“In 2016-17, no budgetary allocation was made as VKY objectives are being met from the Tribal Sub Plan funds available under the various schemes of the central government and state government. A token provision of Rs 1 crore only was made,” he said.

But data shows that even the amount released for the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) has been slashed. Data shows that funds released by the Centre towards TSP were reduced by 10 per cent from 2013 to 2017.

Year Funds released under SCA to TSP (in lakh)
2013-14 1,05,000
2014-15 1,03,999
2015-16 1,13,217
2016-17 93,599
Source: Rajya Sabha

Schemes under education also took a steep hit. For instance, funds for hostels for Scheduled Tribe students were reduced by 94 per cent. Funds for pre-matric scholarships for ST students in IXth and Xth standard saw a drop of more than 75 per cent.

Schemes under education also took a hit. For instance, funds for hostels for Scheduled Tribe students were reduced by 94 per cent. Funds for pre-matric scholarships for ST students in IXth and Xth standard saw a drop of more than 75 per cent. Scheme Funds in lakhs 
2013-14
Funds in lakhs 
2016-17
Hostels for ST Boys and Girls 10,105 595
Ashram schools in Tribal Sub-Plan 7,217 No funds released
Scheme of Pre-Matric scholarship for ST students studying in classes IX & X 21,943 5,211
National Overseas scholarship 68 0
National Fellowship and Scholarship for Higher Education for ST students 950 504
Source: Lok Sabha

Funds also decreased for the economic development of tribals, who are in the lowest rung of the economic ladder. About 45 per cent of them live Below Poverty Line in rural areas and 24 per cent in urban areas. Funds for Skill Development and Vocational Training (income generation) were slashed by more than 50 per cent in the last four budgets.

Year Fund released for Skill Development and Vocational Training (income generation) (in lakhs)
2014-15 37,296
2015-16 27,946
2016-17 20,229
2017-18 16,456 (Funds approved)

This is when the Union Budget 2017-18 document shows an overall increase in the allocation made to the tribal affairs ministry from Rs 4,826 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 5,329 crore in 2017-18.

The increased allocation is solely because of the increase in  revenue expenditure, which neither creates assets nor reduces liabilities. It involves salaries of employees and pension. The revenue expenditure increased from Rs 4,766 in 2016-17 to Rs 5,269 in 2017-18. The capital expenditure (that creates assets and reduces liabilities,mostly involving building infrastructure, expenditure on development plans) during the same time period remained stagnant at Rs 60 crore, less than in 2014-15 (Rs 70 crore).

Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojna focuses on:

Employment, education, economic development of tribal areas, health, housing
safe drinking water for all at doorstep, irrigation facilities suited to the terrain, all-weather roads with connectivity to the nearby town/ cities, universal availability of electricity, urban development, institutional mechanism for implementation, promotion and conservation of tribal cultural heritage, promotion of sports, security.

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/budget-2018-nda-s-tribal-development-scheme-reduced-to-tokenism-59537

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India – How A ‘Pro-Poor’ Budget Downplays Programmes That Fund The Poor

Avani Kapur,

 

Budget speeches are all about messaging. While we all speculated on what the budget will hold for the social sector, many of us, got it wrong.

 

This year’s budget speech did not focus on investments in the government’s flagship schemes of sanitation or housing. Gone too was the focus on skills and employment generation.

 

The budget, finance minister Arun Jaitley noted, would focus on “strengthening agriculture and rural economy, provision of good health care to economically less privileged, taking care of senior citizens, infrastructure creation and… improving the quality of education in the country”.

 

A look at the numbers for social sector programmes, however, suggests that the messaging and numbers don’t add up.

 

Less money for rural development

 

The budget speech found no mention of allocations for flagship schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Prime Minister’s Housing Programme, PMAY) and the Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Programme) except to reiterate the targets that had been set or achieved.

 

In fact, allocations for the rural arms of both schemes have declined  9% compared to the previous year’s revised estimates .

 

Decline In Allocations For Rural Sanitation & Housing
Scheme 2017-18 Budget Estimates 2017-18 Revised Estimates 2018-19 Budget Estimates % Change between 2017-18 RE and 2018-19 BE
Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin 13,948 16,948 15,343 -9%
Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban 2,300 2,300 2,500 9%
Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana- Gramin 23,000 23,000 21,000 -9%
Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Urban 6,043 6,043 6,505 8%

Source: Union Budget; Figures in Rs crore

 

The government’s strategy on rural employment generation is also unclear. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the largest scheme of the ministry of rural development, had the highest-ever allocation but found no mention in the budget speech.

 

While the allocation increased 15% from Rs 48,000 crore to Rs. 55,000 crore compared to budget estimates, it is at par with the revised estimate for 2017-18.

 

Given backlogs in pending payments and increasing compensation due, this increase may still not be enough and the government’s stand on MGNREGS remains unclear.

 

Allocations For Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
Year 2016-17 Actuals 2017-18 BE 2017-18 RE 2018-19 BE % increase between 2017-18 RE and 2018-19 BE % increase between 2017-18 BE and 2018-19 BE
Allocation 48,214.95 48,000 55,000 55,000 0% 15%

Source: Union Budget; Figures in Rs crore

 

Tech to drive quality education but schools don’t even have electricity

 

The big bang push on improving quality education would be through digital technology and infrastructure, Jaitley said in his speech.  “Technology will be the biggest driver in improving the quality of education,” the finance minister said.

 

“We propose to increase the digital intensity in education and move gradually from ‘‘blackboard’’ to ‘‘digital board’.,

 

Now, here are the facts: only 57% of all elementary schools had access to electricity and only 26% had computers, according to 2015 data from District Information System for Education (DISE). This is despite the fact that Rs 50 lakh per district has been allocated under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), for computer aided learning.

 

Anyone who has visited a remote school would know  – when schools don’t even have buildings, digital blackboards are of least concern.

 

The situation in secondary schools is no better. In 2015-16, only 40% of secondary schools had computer and internet and 31% had Information and Communication Technology (ICT) labs, according to  data from Secondary Education Management Information System (SEMIS) .

 

While school infrastructure continues to be weak, here’s a positive: with 248,209 teachers yet to enrol in teacher training, as per official data up to July 2017, the government’s announcement of initiating integrated B.Ed programme for teachers and focusing on teacher training are welcome steps.

 

Limited provision for maternal and child health and nutrition

 

The allocation for reproductive and child health within the National Health Mission (NHM) has been reduced 30%, according to budget  data.

 

In 2017, the government had announced a number of policies and strategies for improving India’s performance on maternal and child health.

 

In May 2017, the maternity benefit programme, now renamed Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana was extended across the country. The scheme provides compensation for wage loss through cash incentives of Rs 5,000 to mothers for delivery of the first child.

 

About 60 economists had written to the finance minister in December 2017, pointing out that Rs  2,700 crore allocated to the scheme was a third of the requirement under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, which entitles all pregnant women and lactating mothers, and not just mothers of first-borns,  to at least Rs 6,000..

 

This year’s allocation, in fact, has declined by 7%.

 

The neglect of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is also surprising. Especially, given that in September 2017, the government announced an increase in unit costs for the Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) under ICDS that will require higher resources.  The allocation for ICDS, however, show only a nominal 7% increase from Rs  15,245 crore to Rs  16,335 crore.

 

With the expenditure on SNP already high in many states compared to the approved budgets, it is unclear how these additional unit costs will be financed.

 

Health insurance needs clarity

 

The National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), cited as the world’s largest government-funded healthcare programme, got a boost. From an annual coverage of Rs  30,000 per family coverage under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (National Health Insurance Programme, RSBY), launched by the government in 2008, the scheme will now cover 100 million poor and vulnerable families with a coverage of up to Rs 500,000 per family.

 

Allocations For Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana/National Health Protection Scheme
Year Actual 2016-2017 Budget 2017-2018 Revised 2017-2018 Budget 2018-2019 % change between RE 2017-18 and BE 2018-19 % change between BE 2017-18 and BE 2018-19
Allocation 465.6 1000 470.52 2000 325% 100%

Source: India Budget; Figures in Rs crore

 

With more and more patients, even in poorer states, opting for private facilities, a strong health insurance policy may be the only mechanism to ensure universal health coverage.

 

Past experience on the performance of RSBY suggest that increasing allocations will not suffice.

 

The RSBY has not been able to reduce out of pocket expenditure (OOPE), IndiaSpend reported on October 17, 2017.

 

Only 11% households were enrolled under RSBY, and almost half of these belonged to non-poor, according to a recent study by Soumitra Ghosh and Nabanita Datta Gupta covering 37,343 households in 18 states.

 

Attention will thus need to be paid on ensuring effective targeting, increasing awareness and regulation, if the scheme is to have an impact on improving health coverage.

 

Source: National Family Health Survey, 2015-16 (NFHS-4); Figures in percentage

 

These increases also seem to have come at the cost of basic primary health care.

 

The National Health Policy (NHP) 2017 vision of bringing healthcare closer to people by providing comprehensive care – including maternal and child health – while getting a mention in the speech did not see corresponding allocations.

 

In fact, allocation for the National Health Mission (NHM) has declined 2%,  FactChecker reported on February 1, 2018.  The allocation for the National Rural Health Mission within NHM declined even further by 5%.

 

If the aim of India’s health policy is to reduce out of pocket expenditure, focus on preventive healthcare, strengthening referrals and a strong primary healthcare system are essential.

 

(Kapur is Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and Director of the Accountability Initiative. With inputs from Ritwik Shukla, Research Associate, Accountability Initiative)

http://www.indiaspend.com/cover-story/how-a-pro-poor-budget-downplays-programmes-that-fund-the-poor-30541

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India – Denied land, Dalit women stake claims in collectives

 

PALLUR, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Fed up with local officials denying their demand for land, 40 women decided to form a collective and simply start farming a plot near their village of Pallur, in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The women are Dalits, a social caste that has traditionally suffered discrimination. Indian laws ban the persecution of Dalits, and states including Tamil Nadu have passed legislation to make them eligible for land distribution.

However, prejudice against Dalits persists and officials routinely refuse to provide them with farmland. About two-thirds remain landless.

“We have worked as farm laborers most of our lives – why can’t we own land?” asked Shakila Kalaiselvan, leader of the women’s collective.

Members of the group faced additional discrimination due to their gender. Despite laws granting equal inheritance rights, women own just 13 percent of land in India although they do about two-thirds of all farm work.

A year ago, they took over an unused 2.5-acre (1 hectare) plot, which was dry and overgrown with weeds. Even though it was common land owned by the state, they faced strong resistance as they cleared it to grow beans, corn and millet.

“The higher-caste men opposed it, but we did not give in,” Kalaiselvan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We should have at least 40 acres for 40 women, but this is a start. We can be independent, earn the respect of the community.”

Across India, women are increasingly taking the law into their own hands when local officials and male community leaders prevent them from obtaining land legally, activists say.

“These women cannot buy or inherit land, and they have not got any land from the government, so what is the option?” asked Fatima Burnad, founder of the Society for Rural Education and Development.

“I tell them, occupy land where you can – like the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is an act of resistance,” said Burnad, whose organization supports the Pallur collective with the loan of a tractor and training in organic farming techniques.

POLITICALLY EMPOWERED

More than half of India’s 1.3 billion population depends on land for a living. Conflicts have increased over the past two decades as land is increasingly sought for industrial use and development projects in a rapidly growing economy.

In response to shrinking farmland combined with increased demand, a handful of states have adopted collective farming models for women and Dalits.

Perhaps the most successful of these is in the small southern state of Kerala, where a government initiative has benefited tens of thousands of women.

Kudumbashree, which the government launched in 1998, gives cheap loans to women’s groups, enabling them to lease private land.

A group of Dalit women of a farming collective walking on the land that they took over for cultivation in Pallur, India. December 26, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Rina Chandran

As of March 2017, about 300,000 women were farming more than 51,000 hectares of land in collectives, according to Kudumbashree. They grow rice, pineapple and other crops, helped by state benefits such as insurance.

The model has lasted because “these farms have higher productivity than individual farms, which means higher incomes for the women,” said Dimple Abraham, a research associate at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies think tank.

The women have also become politically engaged, with more than 11,000 members of Kudumbashree contesting village council elections in recent years. Nearly half won, she said.

REDUCE VULNERABILITY

In nearby Andhra Pradesh state, the government leases 3-5 acres of land to collectives of five to 10 women each, and gives cheap loans for other livelihood options such as poultry and goat rearing.

 

A group of Dalit women of a farming collective walking on the land that they took over for cultivation in Pallur, India. December 26, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Rina Chandran

The government of Tamil Nadu is encouraging small farmers to pool their lands and form collectives in order to reduce their vulnerability to drought and unseasonal rain, and price swings.

A pilot of 2,000 collectives of about 100 farmers each is being launched, and the scheme will eventually benefit about 4 million farmers, according to the 2017-18 budget.

In the western state of Punjab, where a feudal system has denied Dalits their right to a third of village common farmland – more than 50,000 acres – Dalits have formed collectives over the past decade.

Many of the collectives are led by women, and they have taken over more than 200 acres of land, often clashing violently with high-caste landlords, said Ish Mishra, a political science professor at Delhi University.

“The movement is led by educated Dalit youth, who know they have been cheated of land that is rightfully theirs,” he said.

CONSTANT STRUGGLE

In Pallur, a second collective of 40 women plans to clear another 2.5 acres of common land, according to Kalaiselvan.

In the meantime, the group she leads is fighting a bureaucratic battle with the local revenue office to obtain a title for joint ownership of its land.

The revenue officer did not return calls seeking comment.

“It’s a constant struggle; it doesn’t stop with getting the land. They have to go against their husbands, the landlords,” said Burnad, of the Society for Rural Education and Development.

“But all Dalits, especially the women, must own some land,” she said. “That is how they will be empowered, and challenge the caste bias, and they can do this better as a collective.”

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-women-farming/denied-land-indian-women-stake-claims-in-collectives-idUSKBN1EZ1TD

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India – NREGA budget for 2018-19 falls in real terms #Budget2018

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) budget for 2018-19 is Rs 55,000 crores, the same as that of this year’s in money terms. (The initial budget of Rs 48,000 crores for 2017-18 was supplemented with Rs 7,000 crores in January 2018). Also, given the trend of rising pending liabilities at the end of every year, a sizable part of the 2018-19 budget will be utilized for clearing previous years’ payments. Even the 2017-18 budget was grossly inadequate to implement NREGA as per the provisions of the Act. The inadequate budget for NREGA, and also for other rural development programmes, undermines the employment guarantee act in the following ways:

Long and unpredictable delays in wage payments: The Ministry of Rural Development releases MGNREGA funds only after states meet its requirements such as submission of various documents and compliance with its instructions. Such checks and balances are required, but withholding of funds due to lapses by state governments unfairly penalizes NREGA workers. In the ongoing financial year, the Ministry withheld the processing of Fund Transfer Orders for states till the time they did not meet its requirements for fund release. As a result, workers of many states remained unpaid for weeks, even months in case of Bihar and Jharkhand.

Non-payment of compensation: Workers are not compensated for the delays in wage payments after the Fund Transfer Order is signed by the second signatory. As per the calculations made by independent researchers, compensation calculated by the NREGA Management Information System (MIS) for a sample of wage payments in 2016-17 was only 43% of the full compensation due to workers. This proportion fell to 14% for a sample of wage payments in the first two quarters of 2017-18. A damming report of the Ministry of Finance accepts that workers are compensated only partially. It also notes that compensating workers for the full extent of wage delays “would vastly increase the expenditure”!

Low scale of work: To manage the inadequate funds for MGNREGA, government officials informally instruct their juniours to ration the scale of work. Also, the long delays in wage payments discourages workers to seek MGNREGA employment. Since 2012-13, the average number of days of work received by households (those who were able to get any work) has not exceeded 49. If the total rural population is taken into consideration, the annual scale of employment averages only 10 – 15 days per household.

Approved Labour Budget: There has been a systematic stifling of the bottom-up approach of the quantum of work to be decided at the Gram Sabha. The Centre, has through arbitrary, illegal means like the “Approved Labour Budged” reduced the number of days of work. For 207-18, the Projected Labour Budget was reduced by 25%, from 288 crore persondays to 215 crore persondays resulting in a deficit of over Rs 17,500 crore in 2017-18. Moreover, funds are not made available to State Governments for even the approved labour budget.

Non-payment of minimum wages: Real NREGA wage rates have stagnated for several years now. In fact, currently the NREGA wage rates of 17 states are less than the corresponding minimum wages. The government has ignored the recommendations of successive committees to reconcile between MGNREGA wage rates and state minimum wages. It has also not implemented the suggestion of indexing MGNREGA wage rates to the price level by using Consumer Price Index Rural Labourers.

Prioritising schemes for other programmes: As per the employment guarantee act, Gram Sabhas have the right to select NREGA schemes for their village/Gram Panchayat. In the guise of “convergence”, the central government is imposing targets for construction of assets for other programmes – such as houses for Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and Anganwadi Centres for the Integrated Child Development Services. This “hidden cross subsidization” is done because the budgets for these programmes is also inadequate to meet their infrastructural requirements. As NREGA functionaries in at least some states are made responsible for ensuring the completion of these assets, they are forced to compromise on their NREGA duties.

NREGA also suffers from many other serious problems. Local functionaries are unable to cope with the increasing dependence of the programme on technology. Participation of Gram Panchayats in the programmes has decreased substantially due to the excessive centralization of NREGA implementation.  This has adversely impacted the scale of work and local oversight. Many workers are unable to receive their NREGA wages due to the forced integration of the programme with Aadhaar. There is rampant violations of workers’ rights to worksite facilities, unemployment allowance and time-bound redressal of grievances. Accountability and transparency provisions of the Act are ignored or undermined by central and state governments. Over time, this has created a climate of impunity and immunity around NREGA – anyone can get away with anything. This completely undermines the idea of enforceable entitlements for NREGA workers.

After 12 years of implementation of the employment guarantee act, workers should have been celebrating the legal recognition of their right to work. However, they are struggling to save their existing NREGA entitlements. NREGA Sangharsh Morcha marks this NREGA Diwas as “Dhikkar Diwas”. In ten states across the country NREGA workers will hold demonstrations to protest against the rampant violations of their legal entitlements.

The Morcha demands the allocation of adequate funds for the employment guarantee act to ensure: (1) all rural households in need of NREGA work receive employment as per demand; (2) wages are paid within 15 days; (3) workers are compensated for the full duration of payment delay; (4) the NREGA wage rates are reconciled with minimum wages; and (5) schemes are implemented as per the Gram Sabha priorities.

For further details, please contact Ankita Aggarwal (9504091005), Anuradha Talwar (9433002064), Arundhati Dhuru (9919664444), Gangaram Paikra (9977462084), Mukesh Nirvasat (9468862200), Neeta Hardikar (9825412387), Nikhil Dey (9414004180) or Richa Singh (9452232663) or write at [email protected]

 

2018-19 के नरेगा बजट के असली मूल्य में गिरावट

2018-19 के लिए राष्ट्रीय ग्रामीण रोज़गार गारंटी कानून (नरेगा) का बजट 55,000 करोड़ रुपये है – इस वर्ष के नरेगा बजट के बाराबर. (2017-18 में नरेगा का प्रारम्भिक बजट 48,000 करोड़ रुपये का था और जनवरी 2018 में 7,000 करोड़ रुपये और जोड़ दिए गए.) हर वित्तीय वर्ष के अंत में नरेगा भुगतान की बकाया राशि कई हज़ार करोड़ की होती है. इसलिए, 2018-19 के बजट का कुछ हिस्सा तो पहले के बकाया भुगतान में ही खर्च हो जाएगा. 2017-18 का बजट भी बहुत अपर्याप्त था. नरेगा व ग्रामीण विकास के अन्य कार्यक्रमों के अपर्याप्त बजटों के कारण रोज़गार गारंटी कानून निम्न रूप से कमज़ोर होता है:

मज़दूरी भुगतान में लम्बे विलम्ब: ग्रामीण विकास मंत्रालय राज्यों को कुछ शर्तों पर ही नरेगा की राशि भेजता है – जैसे कुछ दस्तावेजों का जमा करना, उसके द्वारा दिए गए आदेशों का पालन आदि. अगर राज्य ये शर्ते पूरी नहीं करते, तो उसका नुक्सान मज़दूरों को होता है. इस वर्ष जबतक राज्यों ने ये शर्ते पूरी नहीं कि, मंत्रालय ने तब तक उनके फंड ट्रांसफर ऑर्डर रोक कर रखे. इस कारण से कई राज्यों के नरेगा मज़दूरों को हफ़्तों तक उनकी मज़दूरी नहीं मिली. बिहार और झारखंड के मज़दूरों को तो कई महीनों तक उनकी मज़दूरी नहीं मिली.

मुआवज़े का भुगतान न होना: मज़दूरों को फंड ट्रांसफर ऑर्डर के बाद की प्रक्रियाओं में हुए विलम्ब के लिए मुआवज़ा नहीं मिलता. स्वतन्त्र शोधकर्ताओं द्वारा की गई गणना के अनुसार 2016-17 में नरेगा के MIS ने कुल मुआवज़े के केवल 43% की गणना की थी और 2017-18 में केवल 14% की. वित्त मंत्रालय की एक रिपोर्ट इस बात को मानती है कि मज़दूरों को पूरा मुआवजा नहीं मिलता. रिपोर्ट के अनुसार अगर मज़दूरों को पूरा मुआवज़ा मिलेगा तो नरेगा पर खर्च बहुत बढ़ जाएगा!

काम का कम स्तर: नरेगा के अपर्याप्त बजट से काम चलाने के लिए सरकारी पदाधिकारी अक्सर अपने कनीय अधिकारियों को अनौपचारिक रूप से कम काम देने के आदेश देते हैं. मज़दूरी भुगतान में लम्बे विलम्ब के कारण कई मज़दूरों का भी नरेगा में रुझान कम हो गया है. 2012-13 से जिन भी परिवारों को कुछ नरेगा का काम लिम पाया है, उसका सालाना औसतन 49 दिन प्रति परिवार से अधिक नहीं हुआ है. अगर सब ग्रामीण परिवारों को लिया जाए, तो यह औसतन केवल 10-15 प्रतिशत ही था.

स्वीकृत लेबर बजट: ग्राम सभाओं को यह अनुमान लगाना होता है कि अगले वित्तीय वर्ष में उनके नरेगा रोज़गार की कितनी आवश्यता होगी. इसके अनुसार राज्य सरकारें केंद्र सरकार के समक्ष प्रस्तावित लेबर बजट प्रस्तुत करती हैं. 2017-18 के लिए देश का कुल प्रस्तावित लेबर बजट 288 करोड़ मानव दिवस था. केंद्र सरकार ने गैर-कानूनी रूप से इसका केवल 75 प्रतिशत हिस्सा ही स्वीकृत किया. पर राज्यों को जो नरेगा राशि आवंटित की गई, वह तो स्वीकृत लेबर बजट को पूरा करने के लिए भी पर्याप्त नहीं थी.

न्यूनतम मज़दूरी का भुगतान न होना: नरेगा मज़दूरी दर के असली मूल्य में कई वर्षों से कोई बढ़ौतरी नहीं हुई है. अभी 17 राज्यों का नरेगा मज़दूरी दर उसके न्यूनतम मज़दूरी दर से कम है. सरकार ने नरेगा मज़दूरी को कम से कम न्यूनतम मज़दूरी दर के बराबर करने के परामर्श को बार बार नज़रंदाज़ किया है. उसने नरेगा मज़दूरी दर को उपभोक्ता मूल्य सूचकांक (ग्रामीण मज़दूर) के अनुसार संशोधित करने की अनुशंसा को भी लागू नहीं किया है.

अन्य योजनाओं की संपत्तियों को प्राथमिकता देना: नरेगा कानून के अनुसार ग्राम सभाओं को अपने गाँव/पंचायत में चलने वाली योजनाओं का चयन करने का अधिकार है. “कन्वर्जेन्स” के नाम पर केंद्र सरकार राज्यों को ऐसी योजनाओं को प्राथमिकता देने के लिए दबाव डाल रहा है जिससे अन्य योजनाओं के लिए संपत्ति का सृजन हो – जैसे प्रधान मंत्री आवास योजना के लिए घर और समेकित बाल विकास परियोजना के लिए आंगनवाड़ी भवन. यह इसलिए किया जा रहा है क्योंकि इन कार्यक्रमों का बजट भी पर्याप्त नहीं है. और तो और, कुछ राज्यों के नरेगा कर्मियों पर इन संपत्तियों के पूर्ण निर्माण की ज़िम्मेवारी थोप दी जाती है, जिसके कारण वे नरेगा के अन्य काम ठीक से नहीं कर पाते.

नरेगा और भी अन्य महत्वपूर्ण समस्याओं से ग्रसित हैI स्थानीय अधिकारी तकनीक पर कार्यक्रम के बढ़ते निर्भरता को नियंत्रित करने में असमर्थ रहे हैंI नरेगा के अधिकाधिक केंद्रीय संचालन की वजह से ग्राम सभा की भागीदारी गिरती जा रही हैI इस वजह से कार्य के पैमाने और स्थानीय निगरानी पर काफी बुरा प्रभाव पड़ा हैI नरेगा को आधार के साथ जबरजस्ती लिंक कराने की वजह से कई मजदूर अपनी मजदूरी आहरण करने में असमर्थ हैंI कार्यस्थल सुविधाओं, बेरोज़गारी भत्ता, समय सीमा पर समस्याओं का निराकरण जैसे मजदूरों के अधिकारों का निरंकुश अवहेलना हो रहा हैI जवाबदेही और पारदर्शिता जैसे प्रावधानों को केंद्र एवं राज्य सरकार द्वारा लगातार कमज़ोर एवं अनदेखा किया किया जा रहा हैI समय के साथ नरेगा कानून को लेकर गैरजिम्मेदाराना माहौल तैयार हो रहा है- कानून की अवहेलना करने पर भी व्यवस्था बच निकलता हैI यह मजदूरों के लिए लागू नरेगा कानून को पूरी तरह से कमज़ोर बना रहा हैI

रोज़गार गारंटी कानून लागू होने के 12 साल बाद यह उनके काम के अधिकार की कानूनी मान्यता का जश्न थाI पर वे नरेगा के हकों को बचने के लिए संघर्ष कर रहे हैंI नरेगा संघर्ष मोर्चा इस नरेगा दिवस को ‘धिक्कार दिवस’ मनाने का आह्वाहन करता हैI देश के दस राज्यों में नरेगा मजदूर अपने कानूनी अधिकारों के निरंतर हनन के विरोध में प्रदर्शन करेंगेI

मोर्चा रोजगार गारंटी के कानून को सुनिश्चित करने के लिए पर्याप्त फण्ड की मांग करता हैI (1) सभी ग्रामीण परिवारों को उनकी मांगों के अनुसार काम मिले; (2)  मजदूरी 15 दिवस के भीतर मिले; (3) मजदूरों को भुगतान में हुए पूरे दिन की देरी के लिए भरपाई हो; (4) नरेगा मजदूरी को न्यूनतम मजदूरी दर के स्तर पर मिलेऔर (5) कार्यक्रम ग्राम सभा की प्राथमिकताओं के आधार पर तय होI

अधिक जानकारी के लिए कृपया संपर्क करें, अंकिता अग्रवाल (9504091005),अनुराधा तलवार (9433002064),अरुंधती धुरु (9919664444), गंगाराम पैकरा (9977462084),मुकेश निर्वासित (9468862200), नीता हर्दिकर (9825412387),निखिल डे (9414004180या ऋचा सिंह (9452232663) या लिखें  [email protected] पर

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