As NDA government introduces Land Amendment Bill 2015 in Lok Sabha today, thousands from across the country converge today at Parliament Street. Joining them will be Medha Patkar, Hannan Molah, Roma, Atul Anja, Dr. Sunilam, Prafula Samantara, Ashok Chaudhary, Ulka Mahajan, Harpal SIngh, Bhupender Singh Rawat, Dr. Rakesh Rafik, Dr. Sunita Godara, and Anna Hazare amongst many others….
Stop the loot of natural resources by corporates, land mafia and builders!
A massive rally of farmers, workers, fishworkers and urban poor
24th February 2015, Parliament Street Delhi
Cancel the Land Ordinance!
Friends, as you all know, to make the process of land acquisition easier the NDA government has made amendments to the 2013 legislation and introduced the Land Ordinance. The state has made two intentions clear with this step –
1. That it has no respect for parliamentary processes.
2. That under the pretext of development, they grab land from farmers and hand them over to Indian and foreign corporations
Since independence people’s movements across the country have been waging struggles to demand equitable distribution of land, zamindari abolition, land to the tiller and land reforms on a large scale. This was in opposition to the 1894 Land Acquisition Act introduced by the British that does not give farmers and landowners the right to save their land. The basic underlying principle of this law was ‘eminent domain’ according to which the nation’s natural resources belong to the state. Although it is noteworthy that this colonial law implies that the state will take your land but in a way that recognises your land rights. Amendments were made from time to time to the legislation and in 1984 it was made applicable to private companies as well. This was vehemently opposed. The government relinquished its responsibility towards large numbers of people displaced by projects and was later forced to pay attention to rehabilitation and resettlement under pressure from people’s movements.
Friends, it was the pressure from people’s movements that compelled the state to consider introducing a new law for land acquisition, rehabilitation & resettlement and subsequently various drafts were presented. The UPA government in its first tenure attempted to draft two different laws but was unable to execute it. After this, the UPA government started the process of combining both the laws into one law in its second tenure. Because of the powerful intervention of people’s movements in the main draft of this legislation, the motives of the government were reined in. Eventually in 2013 the ‘Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act’ was introduced but it was only partially democratic in its processes.
A series of struggles by movements of the country resulted in the making of this law. It had provisions which could not sideline the interests of farmers and workers such as consent of landholders, social impact assessment, a limited time period for the project to begin after land acquisition, clearly outlined provisions for rehabilitation and resettlement, etc. The law was passed in January 2013 along with the dismissal of the colonial 1894 Act. It is remarkable that land has not been acquired even once for any project under this law and the NDA government in its short tenure of eight months has introduced an ordinance that is less of an amendment and more of a complete negation of the law. We are aware that the industry lobby was opposed to the 2013 Land Acquisition Act and it was the government’s single minded agenda to please them. By negating the important provisions that guarantee a democratic procedure, the ordinance is even more dangerous than the colonial law.
We are well aware of the forces at work here. Through slogans like ‘Make in India’ our current prime minister has made it amply clear to capitalists and foreign investors that not only is he willing to help them multiply their wealth by providing cheap labour and cheap land, but he will also bring in laws that remove any obstacles in the way of making unbridled profits. The alterations in the Land Acquisition Act through the ordinance route is a culmination of what he had declared to our NRI capitalists during his ‘show’ in America – that he will derive great pleasure in finishing the nation’s laws one by one.
The idea is to end any scope for democratic processes through the ordinance. The new government not only wants to make land acquisition easy for big projects but also wants to strategically handover vast tracts of land to private companies. This is evident from how the ordinance simplifies land acquisition for destructive projects such as industrial corridors and special economic zones. People’s movements have previously opposed environmentally damaging activities, raising questions about mega projects because of which many farmers and workers have been able to save their livelihood sources. If this ordinance receives the green signal in the Parliament, then people’s movements will be left with no choice and farmers, workers, fishworkers, artisans and small businessmen will be worst affected. Ensuring justice, minimum displacement and livelihood will no longer be possible if it is passed.
By excluding provisions such as social impact assessment, use of land in a limited period, 70-80% consent of landholders, participation of gram sabha and minimal acquisition of multi-crop land, the government has not only conspired to grab land but has also violated our basic rights as guaranteed by the constitution.
Friends, the pace at which this government is passing ordinances whether it be privatization of coal or foreign investment in insurance and defence sectors has broken the myth in people’s minds and caused much uncertainty. Introducing ordinances this way reveals the kind of vested interests under the influence of which the government is taking steps where it doesn’t have the courage to win people’s faith or the trust of the parliament. It is pressure from vigilant people’s movements regarding the ordinance that has resulted in the President of India asking the government not once but twice why they were hurriedly bringing in so many ordinances.
This government has lost its legitimacy in very little time. We understand the limitations of parliamentary democracy and are aware that it has to stay in power for the next five years which is dangerous exactly because we also understanding its intentions. The next five years are enough to establish an authoritarian system in the country. This government’s ultimate objective is to transfer the country’s natural resources into the hands of capitalists. Apart from this, the government has been preparing its own civil force by encouraging fringe elements that at opportune moments will foment hate and be used to repress peaceful, democratic movements. It is for this reason that the struggle is now two fold, where on the one hand we oppose the government’s tyrannical ordinances and on the other fight these fringe elements.
In such a situation we feel that the government has yet again brought the issue of land into the political arena and has reopened the pages of history. We must look upon this as an opportunity. If the government is bringing in a one sided law to acquire land then we too must try to establish our longstanding just and pro-people demands. Towards this, a national convention was organised by various people’s movements on 23-24 January in New Delhi. It was proposed that the time has come for social movements and mainstream political parties to come together and build a tough opposition to the ordinance. Following this, it was decided that movements from across the country, leftwing groups, socialist farmer movements and trade unions will together gherao the parliament on 24th February. The budget session will be in progress and it is during this time that the government will try to pass the ordinance in the Parliament.
The coming together of social movements, trade unions and political parties at such a time could be a highly effective strategy. Apart from this we will have to make many centres of resistance. This ordinance should be opposed at the district level and pressure must be mounted on the MPs from various constituencies to oppose the ordinance in the Parliament.
So friends, we request you all to join us in large numbers to oppose the land ordinance and pressurize this dictatorial government. We must convey the message that this country’s farmers, workers and working class have not yet become mute, are far more vigilant and are better prepared than the government to create meaningful development and a fair system that guarantees their rights.
The people of this country need peace and brotherhood. They believe in Gandhi’s principles of religious pluralism and not in Godse or some violent fringe elements. They want to realize the dream of an egalitarian India as envisioned by Ambedkar, Phule and Lohia. We have fought for such an India in the past and will continue to do so.
We will not let this ordinance be passed!
National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), All Indian Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP), Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sabha, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Yuva Kranti, Campaign for Survival and Dignity, Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, Jan Pahal, Kisan Sagharsh Samiti, Sanyukt Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, INSAF, Delhi Solidarity Group, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan
Contact: 9958797409, 9810423296, 9818905316, 9911955109