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ASHA Kisan Swaraj
07
Mar

ASHA demands key changes in the Land Acquisition Bill to protect rights of farmers and affected families

On the eve of All-party Meet on Land Acquisition Bill, ASHA writes to all party leaders demanding key changes in the Bill to protect farmers’ rights

On the eve of All-Party Meet on Land Acquisition Bill called by the government on March 7th 2013, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) demanded key changes in the Bill to protect the rights of farmers and all project affected people. ASHA released to the media the letter sent to the leaders of all parties urging them to protect the interests of the farming community and common people who have been engaged in thousands of struggles across the country on the issues of displacement and land acquisition.

“We demand that the Bill should not be introduced in the current form. Several crucial recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee in their unanimous report have been disregarded by the Cabinet. These recommendations have broad support among various parties and their representatives on the Standing Committee. We demand that either all the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee should be incorporated by the government before introducing the Bill, or the Bill should be sent back to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for more detailed consultations,” said Kirankumar Vissa, co-convenor of ASHA.

In particular, ASHA demanded that the consent of affected landowners should be taken even in government projects, the approval of Gram Sabhas and Basti Sabhas should be taken for all projects, the provisions to prevent acquisition of multi-cropped irrigated land should be extended to all agricultural land under cultivation, the new Land Acquisition Act should apply to all situations without exemptions superseding all other Acts, and land should not be acquired for private companies and PPP projects under the garb of public purpose.

The letter sent to the leaders of all parties is included below.

Contact: Kirankumar Vissa
Co-convenor, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA)
Mobile: 09701705743; Email: kiranvissa@gmail.com

Letter sent from ASHA to floor leaders of all parties on Land Acquisition Bill

March 6, 2013

Dear Hon’ble Member of Parliament,

Sub: All-party Meeting on ‘Land Acquisition Bill’, March 7, 2013

We seek your urgent attention to the points raised in this letter, in the context of the All-party meeting called by the Union Government on the 7th of March in New Delhi, on the “Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill, 2012”. In particular, we urge that the your Party’s representatives in the all-party meeting raise the critical issues on behalf of the farming community which forms nearly 60% of our democratic polity.

As you know, thousands of struggles are happening across the country on the issue of displacement and land acquisition, and this Bill will have a long-lasting impact on crores of people across the country – the entire farming community, especially the less privileged sections. As a nation-wide alliance of more than 400 organizations, working for strengthening sustainable small farmer livelihoods and ensuring the rights of farming community over land, water and seed, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) is very concerned about the Bill proposed to be brought before the Parliament, which disregards the most important demands from the farming community in particular and the people of India at large.

Our demand about the current version of the Bill: We demand that the Bill should not be introduced in the current form. Several crucial recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee in their unanimous report have been disregarded by the Cabinet. These recommendations have broad support among various parties and their representatives on the Standing Committee. We demand that either all the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee should be accepted by the government before introducing the Bill, or the Bill should be sent back to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for more detailed consultations.

Specific Demands about the Bill:

(1) No Forcible Land Acquisition: Forcible land acquisition from people should not be permitted. Prior informed consent of the affected people, and prior rehabilitation and resettlement should be a requirement for all projects including government projects.

(2) Consent of Affected Land-owners (Section 8(4) and Section 3(za)): The Bill currently requires the consent of 80% of the affected land-owners in the case of private projects, and 70% of the affected land-owners in the case of PPP projects. We demand that consent of land-owners should be required for all projects including government projects.

(3) Approval by Gram Sabha/Basti Sabha (Section 8(4)): In addition to the consent of the land-owners, the approval by the Gram Sabha or basti/mohalla Sabha should be required wherever the displacement is occurring. This is essential because the provisions of private consent of families is subject to manipulation as shown by previous experiences such as slum rehabilitation. Public informed discussion in the local area is required which includes all members of the Sabha including the landless and indirectly affected people. The Gram Sabha or Basti Sabha should also decide whether the project is for Public Purpose or not.

(4) Definition of Public Purpose (Section 3(za)): The definition should be made restrictive and clear. The government should not have the discretionary power to declare anything as “infrastructure” and “public purpose”. We further demand that land acquisition for private projects and PPP projects should not be allowed under the definition of ‘public purpose’.

(5) Social Impact Assessment (Section 5): The public hearing should also explicitly consider the issue of whether the project is for Public Purpose or not, and this should be based on whether a majority of people would benefit from the project, especially the less privileged.

(6) Food Security and acquisition of agricultural land (Section 10): There should be no acquisition of agricultural land, and this provision should not be limited to the multi-cropped irrigated land – a majority of Indian farmers cultivate unirrigated lands, especially the farmers from Dalit, adivasi and backward caste communities. This is most important to preserve the farming livelihoods, local food security and national food security.

(7) 16 Acts listed in Fourth Schedule (Section 98): All 16 Acts mentioned in the Fourth Schedule should be superseded by the new Land Acquisition Act. The current Bill exempts these Acts, including the National Highways Act, the Land Acquisition (Mining) Act, SEZ Act, Industrial Development Act, etc. Effectively this means that a large majority of land acquisition will happen under the old laws.

(8) Return of unutilized land and State Land Banks (Section 95): The government has agreed to the provision of return of unutilized land to the land-owners, however there should be no provision of diverting it into State Land Bank.

(9) Retrospective application the law: There should be clear provisions to make this law retrospectively applicable to all pending cases of Land acquisition and rehabilitation, including situations where the award has not been made, or the possession of land not taken. A National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Commission should be established to examine and settle all pending cases regarding R&R, since reports show that only 17% of affected families in all projects across India have been rehabilitated even as per the existing inadequate provisions.

(10) Livelihood-based Rehabilitation and Resettlement: There should be clear provision of livelihood-based rehabilitation and resettlement of all affected families, instead of the current provisions which are centred around cash compensation which doesn’t constitute fair rehabilitation as promised by the Title of the Bill.

In addition to these specific demands regarding this Act, we emphasize that the government needs to take important steps in order to address the challenges related to land.

(a) Updating land records: A massive exercise of updating land records across the country needs to be completed, which correctly records not only the ownership and title but also the cultivators and tenant farmers leasing the land, and which also records the situation of all assigned lands.

(b)A clear transparent Land Use Policy should be brought in through public debate, particularly preventing the rampant conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural land, and barring the purchase of agricultural land by anyone not engaged in agriculture as an occupation.

We urge your Party to take a pro-active stand in the All-party meeting and ensure that this very important Bill is framed in the best public interest, and not under the pressure of corporate powers.

Sincerely,

Kirankumar Vissa

Co-convenor, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA)

Mobile: 09701705743; Email: kiranvissa@gmail.com

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