Press Release on Day-4, 24th November 2010
Land Acquisition Act makes mockery of Democracy
- People’s Movements demand decentralized development planning -
Ø National Action by Sangharsh[i] continues on day-3
Ø Anti-displacement groups celebrate scrapping of Renuka Dam, HP
Ø Scrap Seang and other North East Dam projects; we want development, not destruction, says KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi
Ø We want ‘Gram Sabha’ over ‘Lok Sabha’, Gautam Bandopadhyay of Nadi Ghatti Morcha
Ø No more urban displacement; urban working people’s struggle groups demand share of urban spaces and action against land mafia
Ø Demolish Adarsh Society and the many other violators of law; demands NAPM
New Delhi – Government of India is acting against the federal nature of the state and the very constitution of India. By centralizing ‘water’, which is a state subject, the government has broken the very centre-state understanding under federal Indian structures, said Akhil Gogoi, inaugurating the Sangharsh Dharna on day-3 against Dams in the North East and rest of India. Seang project and the multiple projects on Brahmaputra and other rivers of NE will not only break the agricultural dependent region’s backbone, it will also displace large chunks of people in the NE states, the KMSS leader added.
The delegation of Sangharsh leaders met with Jairam Ramesh, Minister (Independent Charge) of MoEF and PK Bansal, Cabinet Minister of the Minsitry of Water Resources.
Mr. Jairam Ramesh announced to the team that the Renuka Dam project stands cancelled from the ministry’s point of view especially with regard to forest clearance. He also stated that he has already written to the Prime Minister about dams in North East India, raising serious concerns regarding social and environmental issues raised by the movement and the local people. He assured the delegation that the MoEF is conducting a study to look at the environmental impacts of the Lavasa Project. He ensured the delegation that strict action will be taken if the project implementers are found violating the laws. On Forest Rights Act implementation related issues, the MoEF minister promised to meet the groups separately on Dec 15th. On Tehri dam related violations, he stated that there is already an investigation that is going on by the ministry and action will be taken on the basis of that.
Mr. Pawan Kumar Bansal was requested by the delegation to reconsider the several dam projects in different parts of India. Mr. bansal assured the delegation that the ministry will not permit commercial or energy related pressures to override environmental or people’s concerns. Regarding the draft water policy, he announced the ministry’s intent to hold talks with people’s struggles and movements at the ground before finalizing the same.
Indian Government deals with people of Arunachal Pradesh as if we are Chinese agents and it is unfortunate that we have to remind our own government that we are citizens of India and not China, said Bijay Taram of Forum for Siang Dialogue. He added that the indigenous people based demography of the region will be negatively impacted if workers from other regions were to be brought in for these gigantic construction activities. The worst part of these projects is they the local people do not stand to gain from the power generated from these projects, as it will be diverted to the industrial houses and corporations led projects. We stand together with the people of rest of India in demanding an end to the regime of Land Acquisition Act and in this paradigm of centralized development planning, Mr. Bijay concluded.
Land Acquisition Act 1894 is a mockery of democratic procedures, said Adv. Sanjay Parikh of Supreme Court. The amendments by the UPA government will make the legislation more undemocratic and anti-people, he added while talking to the more than 3000 people gathered at Jantar Mantar as part of Sangharsh.
On urban issues and displacement
Anbovedam of NAPM Tamil Nadu and the Chennai people’s struggle against urban displacement accused that the TN Government has been misusing the LAA to the extent that it has been creating land banks, without even letting the local people know what purpose their lands have been acquired for. The vicious cycle of development induced displacement is such that it first displaces peasants and agricultural workers from their lands, pushes them to cities like Chennai and then their urban development and beautification projects displace these very people many times over again. Ridiculing the government of India for their blind following of the US government’s neo-liberal policies, he pointed at the unemployment in US and asked Indian government not to follow a nation who is unable to feed and employ their own population. For construction of bridges, hotels, highways and flyways, the number of working poor evicted from Chennai alone is close to five lakhs. Why should the poor trust such governments any more, asked Mr. Anbovedam.
Anita Kapoor of National Domestic Workers Union, Raju Bhise of YUVA, Mumbai, Rajendra Ravi of Institute for Development and Sustainability, Delhi etc spoke at the meeting on urban issues. The speakers ridiculed the Rehabilitation packages and beautification drives under projects like MUTP and JNNURM. These projects, they argued, not only displace people to far away suburbs, robbing people of their jobs, but also make livelihood alternatives impossible. Workers contribution to building of cities is not even taken into account while displacing the very people once the construction phase is over. Mr. Bhise concluded by stating that now the people will not accept anything short of land rights in the urban spaces. The speakers also demanded a separate national legislation for rehabilitation of the urban project affected people.
Ganeshan of NAPM Maharashtra, representing the struggle against Lavasa project slammed the government for displacing more than 20 villages, cutting huge number of trees, destroying people’s livelihoods and environment – all to complete a project which in no way benefit the local people.
Displacement, corporations and the proposed Free Trade Agreement between India and EU
Speaking on the India – EU Free trade Agreements, Leena of ‘Forum against FTAs stated that “India’s vast mineral wealth attracts not only Indian but foreign companies as well. Through Free Trade Agreements such as the EU-India FTA, European Corporations will be facilitated access to Indian minerals, increasing the conflict over the use of land and forests. The European commission has identified the EU-India FTA as a mean to ensure EU companies stable and cheap access to minerals for their industrial use, including chromite and rare earths which are largely found in India. This is to be ensured by including provisions that limit or prohibit export taxes, export quotas, and ‘non-automatic export licenses’ for European companies in India. In addition, the investment chapter in this FTA reportedly contains provisions allowing European investors to sue the Indian Government in secret arbitration tribunals if the government implements a policy or takes an action that decreases the profits that the corporation was expecting from its investment in India. This system is not only out of democratic oversight but also means a de facto overriding the Constitution of India, as the arbitration tribunal is not bound by the Constitution of the land, but only by the FTA. Investment provisions should not dilute the ability of the government to take pro-people actions in cases like POSCO or Vedanta where legitimate environmental and social concerns have been raised.
Ms. Leena added: Both sides have announced their determination to finalise the deal by the 10th of December, during the EU-India Summit to be held in Brussels. While concerns have been raised on various issues and even parliamentarians have not received proper answers to the questions they have raised, negotiations behind closed doors will be held tomorrow and day after in Delhi.
Members of Parliament; Joseph Toppo (AGP), Viren Vaishya (AGP) and Kumar Deepak Das (Rajya Sabha, AGP) also visited the Dharna and extended solidarity to the struggle against Land Acquisition. Speakers at the public meeting and rally included: Dr. Manoranjan Mohanty of the Council for Social Development, Swami Agnivesh of Bandhua Mukti Morcha, Nikhil Dey of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Jai Sen of CACIM, Kavita Srivsatava of PUCL.
The participants at the Dharna took out a rally to the Parliament and reiterated the demand for local, decentralized planning and for implementation of article 243 of the Indian constitution.
Day-4 of the National Action Week on the 25th Nov will focus on ‘Right to Food’.
Press Release from November 23, 2010
Enough is Enough; No more displacement – UPA is pushing India to civil war
Ø National Action by Sangharsh continues on day-2
Ø Dam displaced peoples demand moratorium till new legislation
Ø Forest Rights groups demand implementation of FRA prior to land acquisition
Ø ‘Project Clearance’ should be by Gram Sabhas, not ministries at the centre
23rd November 2010, New Delhi – Speaking to a gathering of more than 3500 people assembled at Jantar Mantar as part of the Sangharsh led National Week of Action, Ms. Medha Patkar of NBA stated that “the Rivers, water bodies and sources of life are under threat and are being destroyed in the country. The people who live on the banks of these rivers do not benefit at all and instead their lives get destroyed. The Government should understand that new battles will be fought between those who are trying to save and protect the riverine life and heritage of India and those who are trying to destroy them”.
Ms. Patkar added that; “Energy and electricity have been made out into absolute non-negotiables and every time when people raise genuine social and environmental objections to power projects, they are sidelined by the argument of energy demands (interpreted only as electricity demands) and national growth. New mega projects are cited as the only answer to India’s growing corporate and industrial demands. The three main options of 1) cutting down on the close to 30% electricity loss due to transmission & distribution (T&D) losses 2) increasing the efficiency of existing power projects and 3) investing in alternate energy projects of the solar kind of natural renewable sources, are not even considered seriously by this government, who sheds crocodile tears on the issue of climate change”
Members of Parliament, Rajen Gohai and Bijaya Chakravarty visited the dharna and declared solidarity to the people’s struggle against displacement.
Grameen Bhakra Sudhar Samiti Chairperson Shri. Nandlal Sharma stated that: “people displaced in the 1960s by the Bhakra Nangal dam are yet to get any rehabilitation or alternate livelihood. They have also been served with eviction notice from the forest areas where they have settled down on their own. Even the Forest Rights Act has not been implemented in any of these areas. Vimalbhai, representing MATU Jan Sanghattan of Uttarakhand stated that “people are loosing faith in this government, which has become a brokering agency for the corporations and industrial houses.”
Raju Bhoda, representing the Krushak Mukti Sangram Samiti (Assam): “Our struggles are not any more just against dams or one or two projects; it is for systemic change and for people’s new freedom movement.” Dam affected people from Arunachal Pradesh, represented by Bijaya: “While Arunachal happens to be a less significant, small state the government is trying to build the biggest and largest number of dams in the state. If the 130 MoUs signed for the dams in this state are implemented, people of not just Arunachal but all over NE will be displaced. We will not allow the total destruction and devastation of our people and culture. We will not allow that to happen, even at the cost of martyrdom.”
Gumman Singh, representing Himalaya Niti Abhiayn and Renuka Dam Sangharsh Samiti of Himachal Pradesh: “Himachal Pradesh and across the Himalayan states, the destruction will be complete if we allow the many hydro projects and mega dams like Renuka to go ahead. On top of that now we are having to deal with hundreds of tourism projects and even thermal power projects by the likes of Jaypee Group, who not only acquire land by force, but also run all sorts of illegal projects with fraudulent clearances. HP is being handed out to land mafia and corporations in bulk today.”
Meeting with CP Joshi, Union Cabinet Minister for Rural Development: A delegation which met with the minister demanded a white paper on all the land acquisitions and displacement since independence and also that a new comprehensive bill must be brought out to take care of the land requirements, the people’s genuine growth needs and aspirations and a national level consultation with people’s organisations should be organized by the Government. The Minister requested Sangharsh delegation to present the ministry with a new draft of a comprehensive legislation on development planning and land requirements. The delegation in turn requested the minister that amendments to the LAA or the R&R draft in the present form should not be pushed by the Government in the Parliament.
It was pointed out to the minister that the 2003 and 2007 R&R policies talk about a national committee and commission respectively. However, the minister himself agreed that no meetings or even process towards any R&R monitoring has been undertaken by his ministry or the government as per the policy. Sangharsh leaders demanded that till the time a national level monitoring mechanism comprising of officials and political representation along with social scientists is put in place to monitor land acquisition for projects and also the R&R fulfillment, there should be no acquisition in the country. Any kind of land acquisition, whether for public purpose or for companies’ private profit purposes, the process of land acquisition should be subject to the local gram sabha clearance.
Meeting with Sushma Swaraj: Delegation briefed Ms. Swaraj about the lack of democracy and transparency of the UPA government in the processes towards the two draft bills on LAA and R&R. It was brought to the notice of the opposition leader that while the 2003 NDA’s R&R policy and the 2007 R&R policy by the UPA talk about minimum displacement, this has not been brought into actuality in any of the project sanctions. It was also shared by the delegation that the recommendations made by Mr. Kalyan Singh led Parliamentary Standing Committee on the two bills have also not been accommodated much in the present drafts.It was pointed out that after the Aligarh firing on peaceful protesters that killed two peasant, all political parties agreed on the need for a pro-people legislation that also will take care of food security and sovereignty of the country. However, this needs to be converted in to a comprehensive development planning legislation.
Demands on North East Dams and anti-people projects by Sangharsh:
· A complete moratorium on all clearances (including pre-construction clearances) by the MoEF to large dams/hydropower projects in Northeast India.
· Immediate withdrawal of clearances granted to the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri project, 1750 MW Demwe Lower and 1500 MW Tipaimukh which were granted environmental clearance without downstream impact assessment and public consent.
· Commission of a special study group consisting of Independent Reviewers (including scientists, people’s representative) to study the environmental and social impact off all the existing dams in Assam.
· A complete review of pre-construction clearances granted to projects in the region.
· Future steps on hydropower projects and dams to be taken only after full, prior and informed consent of the people of the Brahmaputra & Barak river basins.
· The Brahmaputra River and its tributaries to be protected as a cultural and ecological endowment of the people of the region and the country as a whole. Development plans will need to respect the environmental and cultural sensitivity of the region.
SANGHARSH PARTICIPANTS MARCHED IN HUNDREDS TO THE MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND FORESTS AND DEMONSTRATED IN FRONT OF THE MINISTRY PRIOR TO THE MEETING WITH SHRI. JAIRAM RAMESH SCHEDULED AT 4pm TODAY.
Government is backtracking on Forest Rights;
Declare Moratorium on land acquisition till FRA claims are settled
Jantar Mantar, New Delhi – Session – 2 of the Sansad Gherao of the National Week of Action against Displacement and Land Acquisition (Act) focused on Forest Rights, community governance and implementation of Forest Rights Act, 2006 in different areas. The communities and movement groups present welcomed the decision of Ministry of Environment and Forests to revoke the clearances granted to British Corporation Vedanta to mine the Niyamgiri hills and forest ranges of Orissa. People at the dharna demanded that strict forest clearance and environment clearance procedures be followed and that FRA claims be prioritized over land acquisition for projects.Condemning the move to give forest and environment clearance to destructive projects like Navi Mumbai Airport, Haripur Nuclear Project, Adarsh Society, Tata (Mundra), Adani and POSCO, despite CRZ violations and FRA pending claims, Ashok Choudhary of the National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (NFFPFW) dared the UPA to withdraw the Forest Rights Act or stop becoming an impediment in its implementation.
Roma of Kaimur Kshetra Mahila Mazdoor Kisaan Sangharsh Samiti, UP stated that FRA is being sidelined by the Government and many state governments. Implementation is not happening in most places, as per the law. There is a deliberate effort from many of the state governments, including where Congress and BJP are ruling, to misuse and abuse FRA against forest communities. Roma demanded that same status for all communities should be the norm under FRA and that the government should stop pitting Dalits and Adivasis against each other. She also demanded that the forest villages should be converted to revenue villages and that the Forest Rights Committees (FRCs) should be at village level, not at the Panchayat level. Gram Sabha should be the decision making body regarding forest rights claims and not the bureaucracy or the Forest Department, she added while addressing the more than 3500 people who are gathered at Jantar Mantar.
Madhuri, Adivasi Dalit Mukti Sangattan, MP: From the time FRA has been legislated, it appears that the attack on the forest resources including land has increased from the corporations and companies. FRA has been reduced to a law that gives some pattas to a limited number of tribals in some regions. The law demands that community rights be recognized and democratic and decentralized governance of the forest villages take place.
On the one hand villagers and forest people who should benefit from the legislation of FRA are being subjected to technicalities and arbitrary rejection of claims and on the other, MoEF and other state departments are going on giving clearances to companies and big transnational corporations to take over more of our forest lands and resources.
Munnilal, National Convener of NFFPFW (Uttarakhand): FRA is only the beginning of a new phase of the struggle of forest people, it is not the end of our battles. Forest Dwellers and tribals in the sub-continent have been fighting all kinds of infiltrators; from British to the Forest Department and the timber/land mafia for the past close to three centuries. Forest felling is happening in a big way in the country today.
Ramchandra Rana, Lakhimpur Khiri, UP: It is a direct battle between the forest people and the imperial Forest Department. Forest department is completely sold out to the forest and timber mafia. When traditional forest workers try to stop them from looting the forests, they register false cases on the people and harass them.
Other speakers at the forest rights session included: Prem Singh, NFFPFW-Dehradun, Jan Mukti Andolan leaders and Dr. Nandini Sundar from Delhi School of Economics, DU.
[i] 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