Social activist and Team Anna member Medha Patkar on Thursday said the new Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation bill, introduced in Parliament, had failed to recognise the historical injustice meted out to about 10 crore people who were displaced due to the development projects. At least 40% of the displaced comprises poor people from ST and SC communities.
"If passed in present form, the legislation will fail to address the ongoing land alienation of the tribals and marginal farmers and further aggravate the land conflicts, agrarian crisis and impoverishment in the country. In spite of certain safeguards, it will fuel unprecedented land acquisition in the country leading to conflicts never seen before," Patkar told reporters in Bhubaneswar.
She added it would be an opportunity missed for the independent India to provide succour to the indigenous people who had become slaves on their land due to land grab by capitalist forces and rich businesses.
She said: "Struggle against corruption has to be a fight against corporate loot and overall systemic corruption."
Patkar said their struggle was for deepening of democracy in the country, to establish the rule of law, to ensure right to life and livelihood with dignity, to ensure democratic control over natural resources – jal, jangal, jameen and khaniz (land, water, forest and minerals).
A strong lokpal bill was only a tool to fight the larger corruption and make the governance structure more accountable and transparent, she said.
Patkar said the bill should be titled as 'Development Planning, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill' ensuring no forcible land acquisition and protecting the rights of the communities over the land and everything attached to it including the mineral, aquatic and forest cover.
"Any acquisition should be done only in accordance with the democratically developed plans as per the provisions of Article 243 of the Constitution and Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) (PESA) Act norms by involvement of gram sabha and basti sabha," she said.
Objecting to a new inclusion of a new category in the bill called 'public interest' and 'production of goods for public use', Patkar said it made the bill open to all kinds of activities.
She said 'public purpose'definition should be limited to core function of the government performed with public money and in no case acquisition should be made for private corporations where they get benefits due to any forcible acquisition of land or any natural weath under the act.
Patkar said the National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM), of which she was the convenor, had submitted had submitted a detailed comment on the issue to the union ministry of rural development, but except for few many recommendations, including the one on 80% consent for public projects, had not found places in the draft of the bill.
Patkar said: "Prier informed consent of the gram sabha , including the project affected families, has to be the basis of any project implemented in the name of public purpose."
The social activist said in order to expedite rehabilitation and ensure principle of minimum displacement, it was necessary to put moratorium on all large projects till the already displaced were rehabilitated and a new law was enacted following wide consultation.