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Press Release: Letter to to the Odisha Governor, demanding no dilutions in Land Acquisition Act 2013 and Forest Rights Act

Bhubaneswar/New Delhi, 19th Nov 2014: Several people’s movements from Odisha gave a memorandum to the Governor Mr. S.C Jamir to register their protest against the attempts by the Central Government to dilute the Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement and Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Act 2013 and Forest Rights Act. In the memorandum, they strongly asserted that the news of proposed amendments in two of the key provisions, ‘consent’ and ‘Social Impact Assessment’ of Land Acquisition Act 2013, is completely unacceptable to the people’s movements, and that these two provisions are central to addressing the issue of ‘forced land acquisition’ and ‘resulting impoverishment’ to the communities. People’s movements representatives also said that it would be a retrograde step if we were to go back to the colonial process of forced land acquisition and no regard to its impact on people, environment and democratic institutions. Any move to dilute pro-people laws for corporate and political gains is undemocratic and unacceptable, and people’s movements will resolutely fight against that.

 

To                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Dt.19.11.2014

            

            Shri. S. C Jamir

            Honourable Governor of Odisha

            Bhubaneswar

 

Respected Sir,

 

Since, the time NDA government has come to power on various occasions its Ministers Shri Arun Jaitley, Shri Nitin Gadkari, Shri Piyush Goyal and others have advocated for bringing amendments to the “Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement and Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Act 2013”. NDA is considering bringing amendments to the Act in the Winter Session of the Parliament or even an Ordinance to make significant changes to the Act. We know that the new Act has been framed after consulting all the stake holders and over a period of seven years after going through two Parliamentary Standing committees (2007 & 2009), both headed by senior BJP leaders, Shri Kalyan Singh and Smt. Sumitra Mahajan.

 

The new Act was a response to the Colonial Land Acquisition Act, 1894 which resulted in forcible land acquisition without any resettlement and rehabilitation, drastically affecting not only people who lose their land, but also those who lose their livelihood. These forced land acquisitions led to massive protests in places like Nandigram, Singur, Kalinganagar, Kakrapalli, Bhatta Parsaul, where many people died. For years  Narmada Bachao Andolan, Niyamgiri Suraksha Parishad, Anti SEZ protests in Raigarh, Jhajhar had been demanding a repeal of the colonial act and enactment of a new development planning act marking people’s participation and provisions for livelihood based  R&R. Finally, we have an Act, passed by last Parliament and rules for which have been notified by NDA government in August 2014. 

 

The new Act has not even been fully implemented in earnest by either State or Central government, but a climate is being prepared by them that new Act is an impediment to the developmental needs of the country.

 

The news that two of the key provisions, ‘consent’ and ‘Social Impact Assessment’ of the Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, 2013 is to be amended by the NDA government is completely unacceptable to the people’s movements. These two provisions are central to addressing the issue of ‘forced land acquisition’ and ‘resulting impoverishment” to the communities.

 

We are writing to you  to convey the Govt. Of India with utmost urgency on this issue. You must be aware of the intense struggles going on in various states across the country including Odisha around the issues related to land acquisition, displacement, development plans and projects. The farmers, fish workers, labourers, artisans, facing uprootment from not just their socio-cultural environs but also livelihoods, are compelled to get united and raise their voices against unjust displacement.

 

Non-violent, peaceful and democratic organizations and their alliances are questioning forcible acquisition of land and everything attached to land, including minerals, ground water, as well as habitats, tree cover and common property resources that result in pauperization, more often, without rehabilitation.

 

It is in this context that the Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement and Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Act 2013 need to be implemented.

 

It will be a retrograde step if we were to go to back to the colonial process of forced land acquisition and no regard for impact of land acquisition on the people, environment and democratic institutions which need to be consulted and their consent taken in the process of SIA. If we are to truly respect the rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution then Parliament must work towards the following :

  1. Let the provision of Consent for the public purpose projects also be made mandatory for the government projects too.
  2. We need to limit the definition of the ‘Public Purpose’. Infrastructure doesn’t equal development. We have seen how Reliance Industries has been creating infrastructure for nation, they work for profit alone and in the process loot the citizens and arm-twist the government, prime example being Delhi and Mumbai Metro and KG Basin Gas projects  ? 
  3. We must have mandatory Social Impact Assessment provisions for the irrigation projects as well, given the huge displacement, in case of Sardar Sarovar dam the sword of displacement is hanging on 2.5 lakh people even after three decades.
  4. Urgently establish a National resettlement and Rehabilitation Commission to deal with the grievances of 10 crores of people who have sacrificed their land and livelihood in the process of development.

 

We would also like to bring to your notice that the Parliamentary Standing Committee of the 13th and 14th Lok Sabha, had given its unanimous report that is self-explanatory. Some of the prominent recommendations included :

 

  1. No forcible land acquisition for private corporations. 

 

  1. Free prior informed consent of project affected people, not land losers alone, for every kind of project, including government one, contrary to what is there in the current Act, 80%  and 70% consent of land losers for private projects and PPP projects respectively. (Even this is not acceptable to NDA government, what a shame!)

 

  1. No acquisition of agricultural land for any project to be covered under the new Act. 

 

  1. Role of Gram Sabhas, Basti Sabhas in Social Impact Assessment, R&R and in other processes emphasized. 

 

The Proposed amendments to the new Act are against the transparency, accountability and democratic participatory planning of development projects with people whose resources are to become the capital, indispensable. Any such effort by the ruling party must be defeated.

 

We would also like to point out that, 13 Central Acts which are used for the land acquisition, need to brought under the coverage of the new Act by January 2015 and NDA government should work towards that.

 

In order to ensure that all this happens, the only way forward, is that government implement the 2013 Act and no amendments are made to the ACT. As esteemed Members of Parliament we want you to intervene and bring your party to understand that the current move to amend the Act is anti farmer and anti people.

 

Therefore, we on behalf of National Alliance of People’s Movements of Odisha unit like to urge you to take up our appeal on above matters to the Central Government and initiate appropriate action so that the State Government implement sincerly Forest Right Act & Land Acquisition Act 2013.

 

With warm regards,

 

Yours Sincerely

 

 

Prafulla Samantara (Lok Shakti Abhiyan and National convenor , NAPM)

Rabi Das, Adviser (Odisha Jansamilani)

Lingraj ( Odisha Krushak Sangathan)

Lingraj Azad (Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti)

Laxmipriya Mohanty ( State Convenor, NAPM)

Kalyan Anand ( Lok Shakti Abhiyan and State convenor, NAPM)

Arun Jena ( Bita Mati Suraksha Samiti and State convenor, NAPM)

Balkrishn Sendha ( Sahara Power Plant Virodhi Manch)

Trilochal Punji ( Jindabad Sangthan)

Satya Bandhor ( Lower Sukhtel Budi anchal Sangram Samiti )

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