Press Release, Sangharsh, 22nd November 2010, New Delhi
The week-long national action against displacement and land acquisition organized by Sangharsh* started in the national capital today. The Dharna and demonstration by thousands of people who have gathered in front of the parliament started at 11 am with lighting of a ‘Mashal’ (traditional torch) amidst songs sung by Narmada Bachao Andolan and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti representatives. The main focus of the Sangharsh process is the participation of more than one thousand people from Assam, who are struggling against the dams in Assam and North East India and the forest communities from central India.
The key points raised by some of the prominent activists and experts included:
Medha Patkar: Two key foundational pillars of our national existence are under threat today: Democracy and Constitution. We are here in our effort to save India’s democracy and constitution. People’s very legitimate constitutional rights are being undermined and suppressed by this government. Our struggles are not just about resisting displacement or implementing people’s forest or other resource rights, it is also about the very right to struggle. At Jantar Mantar, the designated place to demonstrate in front of Parliament, the police are telling us that we can do only 9am-5pm dharnas. This is ridiculous for our democracy that we ask desperate struggling people to do their demonstrations like going to work and returning.
Ashok Choudhury: Focus of the UPA Govt is to get these amendments passed in whatever way. This is against democratic values and against the parliament itself. UPA is trying to bye-pass the Parliament and go against the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on this. Manmohan Singh’s regime is assuming the role of a property dealer and real estate agent. In every nook and corner of the country, corporate / company mafia is created with active government collaboration to grab land. Even the Central armed forced and state police are being used as private militia of corporations. Before bringing on any law on land, two things should be kept in mind by the government: 1) they have to account for the already grabbed land and provide the citizens of this country with a white paper and 2) Land Rights of all citizens of this country must be ensured, especially where progressive and pro-people legislations like Forest Rights Act entitlements are involved. The people’s movements across the country are united and committed on the issue of Land Acquisition Act and we will make sure that this ‘black’ law (amendments) is not passed by the Parliament of India.
Kuldip Nayyar: Power today is vested in the hands of a few ruling elites and they do not care about the well-being of the millions of Indians. The struggles against varied forms of displacement in our country are a big ‘national shame’ as these are caused by our own democratic government/s.
B.D. Sharma: Gram Sabha’s prior informed consent and not just the present style of ‘consultation’ has to become a must for all development planning in the country. It must be noted that ‘commons’ being acquired and public land grabbed does not result in any livelihood rehabilitation or alternate land based employment for the rural poor. In reality, the Government of India is converting the agriculturally self-reliant populations of peasants and agricultural workers into landless and livelihood robbed unorganized sector working class.
KB Saxena: In a democracy, land should be oriented towards the livelihood of all people, especially the poorer and marginalized sections. In the current bill (amnedments), there is no control over the powers of the Government. The way the bill is drafted, public interest essentially encompasses the profit interests of the corporations and industrial houses. The 70-30% Land Acquisition norm is arbitrary and against the basic structural understanding of land acquisition for public purpose. Land for Land and no compensation for it will do. Land is source for livelihood and not just property for sale. Un-utilised, but already acquired (for project based public interest) land should not go to the government and instead should be given back to the land dependent populations.
Thousands marched to the Parliament house today in the afternoon, on the issue of Dams across the sub-continent, especially in Assam, Uttarakhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharshtra, Madhya Pradesh, etc. The rally was led by Akhil Gogoi, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Roma, Vimalbhai, Gumman Singh, Rajnish, and other community leaders and activists from across different movements.
Later in the day, the people’s delegations met with Union Cabinet Minister Shri. C.P. Joshi (Ministry of Rural Development) and opposition leader Smt. Sushma Swaraj and held discussions.
We demand that UPA government MUST:
1. NOT pass the proposed Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill in their current form in the Parliament. UPA attempted this towards the end of the 14th Lok Sabha and also on the last day of the Monsoon Session in extremely secretive manner without any debate and adequate prior information. We oppose all such undemocratic, attempts legislative or otherwise.
a) Forcible acquisition and eviction of people from land, water, forests, rivers and seashores or for aquatic wealth and minerals.
b) Displacing people from habitats, rural and urban, without prior alternative and acceptable rehabilitation, with their consent.
3. REPEAL Land Acquisition Act and ENACT a Comprehensive National Legislation on Development Planning inclusive of just and fair, livelihood-based rehabilitation of the minimally affected people and enunciating the principle of least displacement, just rehabilitation and a decentralized development planning based on Article 243 of the Constitution, PESA 1996 and Forest Rights Act, 2006. Incorporate the progressive elements of the Standing Committee on Rural Development (2007-08)
4. ENSURE that the urban poor who are unprotected workers receive their due right to land and shelter, related to livelihood bases, with strict ceiling on urban lands and STOP displacement and rehabilitation through a nexus of builders-politicians-bureaucrats. Promote self-reliant, affordable housing through the State and co-operatives for the needy population.
a) PESA Act, 1996, scrupulously following the principle of free, prior and informed consent of the adivasi communities and extend it to all other Gram Sabhas before any development Plan or Project, whether public or private is planned and finalized, involving use and change in use of the resources within the domain of a community.
b) Forest Rights Act, 2006 in all forest areas of the country and any change in the land use in any forest area and any land acquisition be subject to settlement of claims and entitlements under Forest Rights Act.
6. ISSUE a White Paper on all the land acquisition, displacement caused and rehabilitation completed since independence. The White Paper must also make public the extent of land utilized, unutilized and land acquired for public purpose but remains occupied by sick and non-functional industries and other infrastructure projects.
7. MAKE PUBLIC all the details and documents of each and every project, its impact on people and natural resources, as livelihoods and the benefits vis-à-vis costs under Section 4 of the Right to Information Act, which has remained mostly unimplemented, till date.
8. DISCLOSE details of all the MoUs signed by the Government of India and the state Governments with different private and public corporations, companies and others, which have land acquisition requirements and hold public dialogue – especially with affected people.
9. ENSURE that minimum and just rehabilitation for all project-affected people in all sectors should be declared as National Policy, leaving scope for finalization by the communities as their right to planning as per the Development Planning Act.
Media team for Sangharsh (Vijayan – 9582862682 / 9868165471, Shalini Sharma (9871076165)
Sangharsh, c/o 6/6, Jungpura B, Mathura Road, New Delhi 110014
Bipin Chander (09868807129), Madhuresh Kumar (9818905316), 011 – 26680883/ 914
* Sangharsh is a collective platform of social movements and people’s organisations from across the country struggling against the process of neo-liberal globalisation and capitalist development leading to SEZs, big infrastructure projects, mining, mega dams, etc. leading to massive displacements of the working class people and traditional craft persons, weavers, fisher people, forest workers, farmers, dalits, women, minorities and adivasis/IPs, etc. The key constituents of Sangharsh include: National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements, National Forum for Forest Right and Forest Workers, National Domestic Workers Union, SEZ Virodhi Manch, National Cyclist Union, National Hawkers Federation, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Kaimur Kshetra Mahila Mazdoor Kisaan Sangharsh Samiti, Kishan Sangharsh Samiti, Him Niti Abhiyan, Nadi Ghati Morcha, Adivasi Moolniwasi Asthitva Raksha Manch, Jan Sangharsh Vahini, Jai Yuvak Kranti Dal, Maatu Jan Sangathan, Machhimaar Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti, Renuka Baandh Sangharsh Samiti, Birsa Munda Bhu Adhikar Manch, Pennuruimai Iyyakam, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, Vangram Bhu Adhikar Manch, Tharu Adivasi Mahila Mazdoor Kisaan Manch, Tarai Kshetra Mahila Mazdoor Kisan Manch, Patha Dalit Bhu Adhikar Manch, Delhi Solidarity Group.
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