A Paradigm Shift in Development Planning and Land Rights is Need of the Hour Not Further Acquisition and Cash Compensation

NAPM, August 2013  | See More reports and details

The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011 is coming up for discussion tomorrow in Lok Sabha. There has not been any consensus on the Bill yet the UPA government is bringing the Bill. In some cases the new Bill is worse than the colonial 1894 Act, by expanding the definition of public purpose, legitimising the acquisition for private corporations and excluding all other laws used for land acquisition for highways, industrial corridors and others.

The proposed amendments introduced by the Ministry of Rural Development earlier this year was to further take away the rights of the people in planning process and the principle of prior informed consent.

The Bill in its current form has refused to accept the key recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, something which Chairperson fails to see but, a concern shared by many other members of the Committee.

The Bill has now been renamed “Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill,with a claim to better reflect Government’s Commitment towards securing a legal guarantee for the rights of project affected, and ensuring greater transparency in the land acquisition process. It is also claimed that the Bill will ensure, in concert with local institutions of self-government and Gram Sabhas established under the Constitution, a humane, participative, informed, consultative and transparent process for land acquisition.

However, we feel that the Parliament should not pass the proposed Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill, in its current form. It needs to be debated democratically debated by all and take those in account, rather than succumb to the private corporations interests and pursue undemocratic growth. Untill then put a moratorium on all ongoing land acquisitions in the country. We oppose all such undemocratic, attempts legislative or otherwise.

In public domain we have the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s report (on Rural Development) on the Bill as well as the amendments introduced by the Ministry of Rural Development, we, the people’s movements, have taken serious cognizance of the fact that the strong position taken by the Standing Committee on certain critical issues are either diluted or rejected by the Ministry of Rural Development, which is shocking. The Ministry that is supposed to protect the rights and powers of the rural communities has not accepted some of the standing committee recommendations, towards that end, which are presented with our comments, herewith:

Definition of Public Purpose and Infrastructure

  1. The Committee had suggested a restrictive definition of Public Purpose, something which didn’t leave any discretionary power to the government and also development of infrastructure by the public agencies with the public funds only.

Ministry has proposed an expansive definition of public purpose and infrastructure and also a clause which leaves the discretionary power to declare anything as infrastructure and of public purpose. The Committee to decide upon the nature of the public purpose all consists of bureaucrats and representation of the democratically elected local self government institutions is wanting. Gram Sabha and Basti Sabha in consonance with the Art 243 provisions have every right to the planning and hence the power to decide the nature of public purpose must rest with them, which will also democratise the development planning.

It is ironical that while food processing and other agriculture related secondary and tertiary sector industries have been brought in the public purpose definition but agriculture itself has not been considered a public purpose, something which would have meant no acquisition of agricultural land.

Acquisition for Private and PPP Projects

  1. No forcible acquisition for private projects, or for PPP, which can not to be categorized as public purpose projects.

  • Ministry has rejected this and justified this with a provision that consent of 80% of project affected People will be sought before acquisition for any private projects

In this era of neo-liberal economic reforms, private projects with corporate investment and interests are taking a much larger toll of land and other rich natural resources as also uprooting by killing communities which are generations old. This must come to an end and the same can happen only with stopping the State playing a role of facilitator and land dealer. At the cost of the livelihood of the nature based sections and working class section of society, the state can’t transfer the most valuable livelihood resources such as land, water to the profiteering bodies in the garb of ‘public interest‘ and ‘public purpose‘.

Food Security and Agricultural Land Acquisition

  1. No forcible acquisition of agricultural land, for non-agricultural purpose including single crop and multi crop land.

  • The proposed Bill leaves this to the state governments to decide, rather than take a clear stand on it. It makes provisions for acquisition of common property resources too.

How can the in-between farms that may be unirrigated, rain fed, single crop be left out, we ask. India has 75% of the agricultural land as rain fed and most of it single cropped. Such land is mostly held by Dalits, Adivasis and marginal farms. Protecting them and all farm land for food security, which comes not from PDS but self sufficient agriculture, is a must!

Bringing 16 Central Acts Under Purview of this Bill

  1. The standing committee has recommended that all 16 central acts should be brought under the purview of the new act, to make all equal before law (Article 14 of the Constitution).

  • Ministry of Rural Development wants to exclude 13 out of 16 Acts including Industrial Development Act, Land Acquisition (Mines) Act, National Highways Act and others from the purview of the new act. This means that 90% of the land acquired as on today will continue with injustice and force used, with no change at all.

The standing committee recommendations must be upheld to end brutal unjust acquisition for all projects under various state and central laws.

Role and Consent of Gram and Basti Sabha

  1. The Committee asks that all studies – SIA, EIA, expert committee appraisal be done in consultation with the gram sabhas and the corresponding reports be made available to the gram sabhas.

  • Ministry emphasises that 80% consent of land loosers is there in case of acquisition for private sector projects and 70% for public private partnership projects.

Consent and direct involvement of majority of the Gram Sabhas must be there in each and every project, including public projects for public purpose. 80% and 70% consent of the land losers for the private and public – private projects, respectively, alone is not sufficient. Also, why should the linear projects be left out? If it’s consent of 80% affected, there are to be a number of manipulations that people will have to face. Experiences of 70% consent in Slum Rehabilitation Scheme in Mumbai are quite telling.

Return of Unutilised Land to farmers and Land Bank

  1. The Committee recommended that the land, if not used till 5 years, should be returned after 5 years from the date of possession to the land owners.

  • Ministry accepts the reduced five years time period and also its return to the landowner or its legal heirs but retains the provisions for State Land Bank.

The ownership over the land is of those who till it and if not used and unutilized then it must be returned to the owners or distributed amongst the project affected people. We oppose any such feature which will promote land bank, since it has promoted large scale acquisition in the past and later illegally transferred the same land to corporations for real estate and other purposes.

Retrospective Application of the Law and Repeal of Land Acquisition Act

  1. On the question of retrospective application of the R&R provisions Committee has suggested to Ministry to re-examine the issue and incorporate necessary provisions

  • Ministry has partially brought in the retrospective application of the R&R provisions of the Bill in cases where the award under Section 11 of the LAA 1894, has not been made or where award has been made but the possession not taken.

It needs to be noted that nearly 100 million people have been displaced since independence and with a dismal 17-20 percent rate of resettlement and rehabilitation we had suggested that not only the retrospective application of the provisions of the new act but a National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Commission be established to deal with the claims of the projected affected people from various projects. Also the Land Acquisition Act 1894 need to be repealed completely, two acts dealing with the land acquisition will bring in legal challenges and also negate the whole purpose of bringing in a new legislation.

Resettlement and Rehabilitation Benefits

In terms of the resettlement and rehabilitation benefits Committee apart from suggesting some cosmetic changes have accepted the provisions of the Bill, we think this is unfortunate since provisions don’t stand up to livelihood based R&R, it merely promotes the principle of cash compensation. It will be a retrogressive step since it negates the land and employment based R&R as mandated in the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award, and various other projects. The proposed provisions of compensating employment with money and high rates for land acquired will only lead to speculative land market and will destroy the fragile economy of the rural hinterland which will lead to further urban migration.

Urban Eviction

The Bill and the comments by both, Standing Committee as well as MoRD almost totally excludes and have unaddressed the situation in the urban areas, where there is no land acquisition, but eviction, brutal and unjust, for any and every elitist real estate development to infrastructure without guaranteeing right to shelter, right to life and livelihood. The only provision is to compensate with 20% of developed land for land owning families in urbanisation projects, which is not with regard to the cases where land belongs to the government or private entities but people are evicted. We demand a separate section or a separate act for the millions of the urban persons and urban land from getting misappropriated. The Bill with the presently proposed content need to be called only “Rural Bill”.

The rapacious use of Land Acquisition Act 1894 by the government to secure land for ‘development’ projects has caused over 100 million people to be displaced from their land, livelihoods and shelters. The country is dotted with communities resisting State sponsored land grab which resonate the demand for a just law to ensure that there is no forced acquisition of land and resources, including minerals and ground water. The government must respond to the voices from movements across places such as Narmada, Koel Karo, Singur, Nandigram, Sonbhadra, Chindwara, Bhavnagarm, Kalinga Nagar, Kashipur, Raigarh, Srikakulam and mining areas in central India with genuine efforts to address the longstanding crisis concerning land Acquisition and resettlement & rehabilitation.

If the UPA government is serious about addressing the conflicts over the land and other natural resources then it must listen to the voices of those struggling or else it will only aggravate these conflicts all across the country. The need of growth, infrastructure and urbanisation can’t be fulfilled on the graveyard of millions. A pro-people Development Planning Bill with complete participation of the Gram Sabha will go a long way in stopping the massive corporate corruption and lead to decentralization of power having an overall impact on the politics of the country.


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