Report on Land Acquisition will soon be made public: Shri Jairam Ramesh
New Delhi, 29th November 2012: The focus of day 4 of the Jan Sansad, at the Jantar Mantar, was on land reforms, land acquisition, agricultural reforms, seed sovereignty, food security and mining and minerals. The Jan Sansad was attended by scores of farmers and activists from Delhi, UP, Haryana, Punjab, Mp, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Orissa.
Speaking on the issue of Land Acquisition Shri PV Rajagopal, of Ekta Parishad, said that the right to life includes control over natural resources and said that the National Land Acquisition Bill “should specify how land should be distributed among all classes of people. Land must also be available for both housing and agriculture and the government must acquire land, allocate this land, protect the rights of people to whom this land has been allotted and assist allottees with projects for improving the land.”
The National Alliance of People’s Movement has recommended that no agricultural land should be forcibly acquired given the food security of the country. The state should not forcibly acquire land for their PPP projects. The consent of the majority of Gram Sabha members must be obtained on all matters pertaining to the Land Acquisition Bill. Central Acts used for land acquisition need not be exempted from the purview of the bill and all unutilized land should be returned to the land owners.
During the day numerous experiences were shared by the community on how land was being unfairly and illegally occupied by the rich and influential people. Shri Chandra Mahan Singh from MP spoke of an incident in which a community had no place to cremate a man. It was only after they took the body to the police station that the police immediately allotted 6 ½ bighas for a cremation ground to the community.
Shri Surender Mandal, from Jhuggi Jhopri Sangharsh Morcha, Patna said that when the government was destroying jhuggi jhopris the high court has asked the government to provide housing to those who have been displaced by 2009. The government said that they would do so when they got free land. The community filed an RTI and got information that the land was available. It also found that the Central Government has given the Bihar government Rs. 42 crores for the construction of 22,000 households by 2012. But only 570 houses have been constructed so far and the deadline has been extended to 2017.
The discussion then turned to the issue of agricultural reforms. Shri Kiran Kumar, from the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Culture, said that farmers were facing difficulties because of lack of water in Bundelkhand. In the last 10 years there have been 7 famines and government schemes have been ineffective. Though Rs. 3,500 crores has been allocated to Bundelkhand only 11% have so far reached the farmers. He demanded protection for the earnings of farmers with schemes and budgets that will focus on increasing their earnings and not just productivity, the adoption of a model to promote environmental methods of farming and that control of resources to be with the people.
Shri Balvinder Singh, a farmer from Punjab said, “Punjab was held up as a role model for farmers but the underground water has gone down so drastically that the government has banned the drawing of ground water in 108 blocks. Farming has also been suffering for last 30 years following the introduction of chemical fertilizers and genetically modified seeds.”
Prof. Yogender Yadav, Aam Admi Party, said there is an “unwritten scheme to exploit villages, villagers, farmers and labor but the farmers have three strengths to overcome this exploitation: the land under their feet, their right to vote and their dignity and pride which is still intact.” He also spoke of the need to protect and support farmers because the next generation was moving into other professions. This could result in a huge problem for the country in times to come.”
Shri Bhupinder Singh Yadav, MP BJP said “Mega development projects are leading displacements of farmers. So called development is only for a bunch of rich people and it is the poor who are suffering because of laws such as land acquisition.” He also added that changes should be made in Land Acquisition Bill and public opinion should be taken into consideration while doing so.
During the course of the day an eight member delegation comprising of Ms. Aruna Roy, Ms. Medha Patkar, Shri PV Rajagopalan, Ms. Anjali Bharadwaj, Ms. Kavitha Kuruganti, Shri Nikhil Dey, Baba Adhav and Ms. Annie Raja from Jan Sansad also met Shri Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Rural Development and Shri Puluk Chatterjee, Principle Secretary, PMO.
Shri Jairam Ramesh told them that a report on pension would be placed before the Union Cabinet on what will be done in this regard in the forthcoming Budget. He also said that he would recommend the universalisation (with exclusion) of old-age pension with the removal of anomalies for single women and the disabled. He also said that the report on land acquisition with substantial changes will be made public in a day or two. Some differences with civil societies on the recommendations they had made but some of their suggestions had also been accepted.
Shri Pulak Chatterjee gave them the assurance that more consultations would be held on the cash transfer scheme and the Universal Identification (UID). He also said that the UID would not be made compulsory and that the government was trying to get the anti corruption laws like the Lokpal Bill, Grievance Redress Bill and Whistle Blowers Bill passed. He also discussed the Seeds Bill the BRAI Bill, the Women’s Reservation Bill and the status of the National Commission for Women.
Earlier in the day Ms. Medha Patkar in a brief address to the Sansad stressed that the government can’t take away land from people and allot it to private companies. She also emphasized on the importance of people’s movements in securing the rights of the community and gave the example of the Narmada Bachao Andolan.
Shri Mani Shankar Iyer MP, Congress, Rajya Sabha,-opined that this Bill “was prepared in haste without deliberation and when the acquisition of labour and earnings cannot be taken back then how can land be acquired?”
Shri MB Rajesh CPI(M) said that land should not be forcibly acquired for private organizations. Compensation should be given on the basis of land use and people must fight for the proper implementation of this Bill.
Ms. Smita Gupta, All India Democratic Women’s Association pointed out that the fight for land is not just a rural phenomenon. In cities infrastructure is being created in the name of development and the poor continued to be ignored. In this fight for land, we should combine the struggle in cities and villages.
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