Community Rights on Land, Water, Forest and Mineral Resources and Right to Participate in Development Plans – Sustaining Agricultural Livelihoods
1. Our country is gifted with abundant natural resources such as land, water, forests, minerals etc. According to our constitution, the people have the primary right on these resources. The main objective of development is to fulfill the basic needs of people living in the villages, cities and slums using these resources. Therefore the people of the villages and cities, the democratic unit should have the primary right in establishing developmental planning.
2. Today, in the name of development, plans for improving the lifestyle of the upper class are being put into implementation without considering the opinion of the local self-governmental units. This is undemocratic and unconstitutional and is unacceptable to us. Any action in the interest of development or public interest should only be performed with the participation and consent of the people living in villages and slums. If any such action is performed without the consent of these people, we will not consider it in the interest of development and will oppose it.
3. The displacement, which is indiscriminately being carried out for development, is unacceptable to us. In the name of development, water, irrigation, power, roads (highways, seaports, airports etc.), mines, farms, forests or other public and private properties are being demolished. Even small villages and slums are being demolished. This injustice in not only illegal but also inhuman. Development free from demolishment is important and possible. But this form of development is only possible by implementation of democratic and decentralized employment of people.
4. Natural resources are the basis for our life and livelihood. Whether it is groundwater or greenery, these resources have been serving as the basis for livelihood for generations over the years. The human community is consuming these resources at a very fast rate. Inequitable environmental destruction is unacceptable to us. Any action in the interest of development cannot be given consent without consultation with the local communities.
5. Nowadays, the need for electricity is greatly exaggerated by a nexus of the rich- capitalists, politicians, officials and companies. On the basis of these exaggerated figures, schemes are being formulated over harnessing rivers, mountains, fields etc. through large dams, thermal power stations, nuclear power plants in a way that is destructive to the human life. All these are symbols of a destructiveness under the pretence of progress or development. Such schemes should not be permitted without the consent of the local people.
6. Since independence, the various schemes for development have displaced over 10 crore people Out of these, only 17 % have been rehabilitated by the government. Facilities like alternate livelihood and money should also be made available to the devastated people. Until the process of rehabilitation for the displaced people is not completed, any further displacement will not be given consent, and action on any such steps will be immediately halted.
7. The policies of liberalization and privatization will bring about changes in the projects of development that will prove to be beneficiary in the development of water, industrialization, mineral exploitation and farming. There should be discussion on these policies and every area should be reviewed state wise. Whether these matters are discussed in the parliament or not, they will be discussed in the Jan Sansad conventions to ensure changes to improve the lives of the people.
8. The transfer of farmlands to builders for industrialization should be immediately stopped. To prevent unnecessary non-farming practices, the transferred land should be used prior to the fallow land. Ceiling of land in cities and villages should be applied as it was applied before. The landless people, peasants and homeless people should have primary right over their lands. The land should be acquired from the capitalists, builders and politicians and should be distributed amongst the needful people. The common people should have primary right over the industrial production and the secondary right should be of the home industries i.e. village industries, cooperative industries, small scale industries and only a few selected large scale industries. Industries based on human resources should be given priority over capital based industries that rely mostly on water and power.
9. The SEZ law will help the industrialists and the capitalists to acquire land indefensibly and will not help in providing livelihood to the poor. It will only increase the inequality between the rich and the poor. Therefore, the SEZ law should be abandoned. Basic housing rights should be provided to the labourers living in urban slums who help in running the country. Their slums should not be demolished and they should be given housing rights wherever they are settled and cooperative groups should provide them with settlement rights.
10. While developing cities, the larger part of the land should be reserved for housing. Similarly, the tribal people and other backward classes, who have been doing forest farming for years, should be given the ownership rights of the land being used by them. That land should not be desolated and distributed to the companies. The common people should be given legal land rights. In accordance with the Forest Rights Law passed by the parliament in 2006, the tribal people and other traditional forest communities should acquire right over the forests and forest resources.
11. The land and resources belonging to the public (barn, river, character of pasteurized land or destroyed forestland) should be reserved for the landless and homeless people and then distributed among them primarily.
12. The natural resources of our country should be conserved, because they are the basis of our livelihood. We make a resolution that we will try our best to conserve them for the coming generations. To do so, we need to put forward a constant struggle against the destruction of these resources using the effective techniques. We are also committed towards leading our lives in the right direction.
13. A bill supporting national development planning, displacement and rehabilitation should be passed. Nobody should be displaced against his/her will. A law of decentralized development planning based on the principles of section 243 of the constitution, 1996 PESA act and forest rights act 2006 should be passed. It should also include the progressive elements of the Standing Committee of Rural Development, which are minimum displacement and just rehabilitation. It should be discussed amongst the affected communities, groups of farmers and movements.
14. Only extremely important governmental purposes should demand donations from the public. Public should not donate any money for private purposes. Forced land acquisitions should be banned. Any plan for personal benefit termed as beneficiary to the public is unjust and unacceptable to the people of India.
15. Our country in full of geographical and geo-cultural variations, and every area has its own needs for development, therefore it is important for us to have a democratically planned land usage policy that takes care of all the variations and needs.
16. Today, the government has the ownership rights of the acquired lands. We believe that only farmers should have the ownership rights over such lands and the land should be returned to their owner after the completion of the purpose for which it was acquired. The unused, acquired land should be distributed by the government to the displaced families.
17. The rivers and valleys in our country have kept the human culture and civilization alive. Several dams are being built on these rivers in the name of power generation projects which are being opposed by many public organizations. Recently, after the decision of the Supreme Court of India, the government has planned the interlinking of rivers in India. This project will destroy the rivers and river valleys and large numbers of people will be displaced to vacate lacs of acres of land. The project is being planned without due consideration to the environmental problem caused apart from the economic profit and loss. Such projects are illegal and should be immediately halted.
18. On one hand, the backward classes are facing problem water shortage and on the other hand the middle and upper class people are getting enormous quantities of water. In such a situation, the government is supporting the private companies in and helping them to get privatized, in the name of providing better facilities to the backward class. We believe that it is the government’s moral duty to provide physical facilities to the people, and a profiteering private company cannot do such a job.
19. If the purchasing of land and other resources is being done in favour of the builders’ profit, then it is the government’s responsibility to provide the same to the neglected class for their livelihood and decide the market value of these resources in consideration with the condition of the neglected class. The government and the private sectors should be bound to obey the rehabilitation that includes market justice and the principle of competition.
20. The framework of market valuation of land has to be negated. If it is not done, the tribal people and the lower classes will suffer. Therefore, without any hesitation, alternative livelihood or employment should be provided to the people affected.
21. Without proper consultation with people, eviction is inhuman and unconstitutional and against the right to life and livelihood of the people. Use of police force against the people for eviction is totally inhuman. There is no place for it in the largest democracy in the world.
(1) The 2.7 lakh farmer suicides in the past 17 years are a blot on the conscience of the nation. They are cruel reminders that several crores of families in the farming community are in severe distress. This crisis is being driven by the anti-farmer policies and neglect of the government. We demand that the governments at the Centre and states address the agrarian crisis with the highest urgency and priority, and make that the basis of sustainable renewal of rural economy.
(2) We demand a Farmers’ Policy with a comprehensive framework that (a) ensures dignified livelihood for all sections of the farming community, (b) ensures people’s rights over agricultural resources, (c) promotes ecological sustainability, and (d) ensures safe, nutritious food for all.
(3) The government policy should assure a minimum level of income and dignified livelihood for all sections of farming community. We demand a statutory permanent Farmers Income Commission with the mandate of implementing an income assurance for all farming households – including small farmers, tenants, agricultural workers. This is necessary for ensuring true Food Security and Food Sovereignty.
(4) Natural resources including Land, Water, Forest and Seed – Jal, Jangal, Beej, Zameen – should be firmly under the control of the people who derive sustainable livelihoods from them. We oppose corporate control of these resources and the trampling of people’s rights.
(5) We demand comprehensive land reform that gives land to the landless. The people who are directly engaged in agriculture should have control over land. Tenant farmers’ rights should be fully established. Non-farmers should not be allowed to purchase agricultural land.
(6) We oppose exclusive rights and IPRs in any form on life forms – including plants, seed, genes and particular traits. The Seeds Bill should provide for regulation of prices, profits and royalties in the seed sector, with powers delegated to the state governments.
(7) We oppose Genetically Modified crops which are risky and unsafe to health and environment and pave the way for corporate control of agriculture. We assert that India’s food security can be ensured without dependence on GM crops. The government should implement the unanimous recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture.
(8) The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill that is before the Parliament should be withdrawn. A National Biosafety Law should be put in place immediately, which should govern all research and commercial activity involving Genetic Engineering.
(9) We strongly assert that FDI in Retail and promotion of big retail is not in the interests of the farming community. We reject this model which promotes the control of the supply chain by a few big corporations – ultimately displacing small and medium farmers. The government should strengthen the hands of farmers and farmer collectives with storage, credit and market facilities.
(10) Ecologically Sustainable agriculture is the future of Indian farming – not only to reverse the damage to soil, water, farm ecology and food system caused by the high-input chemical technologies of the Green Revolution, but also to move away from high-cost, high-risk agriculture that is unviable especially for small farmers.
(11) The government should implement a complete time-bound transition to ecologically sustainable agriculture targeting the next 10 years. Toxic agri-chemicals should be phased out, with the most hazardous pesticides being banned immediately. Rainfed agriculture, which forms 60% of cultivated but faces severe crisis due to government neglect, should receive special focus, giving incentives for dryland crops such as millets, pulses and oilseeds, and establishing support systems for livestock and protective irrigation.
Food Security and Agricultural Land Acquisition
22. No forcible acquisition of agricultural land, for non-agricultural purpose including single crop and multi crop land.
· Ministry says only multiple crop land can be excluded.
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!
Acquisition for Private and PPP Projects
23. 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‘.
Bringing 16 Central Acts Under Purview of this Bill
24. 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.
Role and Consent of Gram and Basti Sabha
25. 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 PPP and private sector 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% consent of the land losers for the public – private projects 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
26. 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 but opposes its return to the landowner and suggests it to go to 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
27. 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 not accepted it and refused to do so.
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.
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.
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.
Resolutions Specific to Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, 2012
A new Bill replacing the age old Land Acquisition Act is under consideration by the UPA government. National Alliance of People’s Movements have been struggling for repeal of the colonial Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and enactment of a Development Planning, Land Use Management, No Enforced Displacement, and Just Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act. In this respect Jan Sansad adopts the following resolutions :
· We urge UPA government to respect the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which heard all stake holders including the people’s movements like ours as well as the corporate bodies and others. They recommended that :
· No agricultural land, whether single crop or multiple crops, should be forcibly acquired keeping in view the food security of the country.
· In the name of Public Purpose, the State should not be forcibly acquiring any land for the private corporation or their PPP project.
· Consent by majority of Gram Sabha members (or equivalent body in urban areas where these have been constituted) should be obtained in all matters pertaining to the Bill.
· There is no need to exempt any of the Central Acts used for land acquisition from the purview of the Bill and to bring those at par with the Bill, Government should carry required amendments.
· Any unutilsied land shall return to the land owners. ‘Land Bank of un-fertile, waste-lands’ for use by the industry or infrastructure projects should be prepared by the government not with the land remaining unutilised.
In addition to endorsing the recommendations of the PSC Jan Sansad also recommendations the following with respect to the Bill :
· 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)
· 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. We demand a separate enactement for addressing the problems of evictions, securing land rights and address resettlement and rehabilitation issues of the urban poor.
· 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.
· 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.
· 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.
· 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. Given the fact that nearly 10 crore people have been displaced, it is pertinent to address the concerns of the displaced people since independence and for that a NATIONAL RESETTLEMENT AND REHABILITATION COMMISSION must be established.