Intellectuals demand rejection of land acquisition bill

Dub proposed legislation worse than the existing law

The Bill was tabled in the monsoon session of Parliament and should come up for consideration in the winter session starting November 22.

In a joint statement, Prof Amit Bhaduri, Dr Jayati Ghosh, Prof C P Chandra Shekhar (Jawaharlal Nehru University), Pushkar Raj, Kavita Shrivastav (People’s Union for Civil Liberties), Arundhati Dhuru (National Alliance for People’s Movement) and Ashish Kothari (Kalpvriksha) alleged, “ the  Bill is a dangerous exercise in doublespeak that will worsen the injustice and devastation caused by the present law.”

The civil society members have pointed out that the “integration” between acquisition and rehabilitation that the law’s title implies simply is not provided for in its actual clauses.

“This Bill in fact promotes further unregulated land takeover by corporates, while assuring them government assistance in dealing with recalcitrant landowners. The bureaucracy also continues to wield enormous discretionary powers,” the statement said.

Intellectuals and rights activist say that the 2011 Bill does nothing at all to plan or regulate land use. Instead, it gives arbitrary licence to acquire up to 5 per cent of multi-crop irrigated land without assessing projects in terms of their impact on food security, they said.

Least displacing clause gone

“The earlier draft required that projects be the ‘least displacing’ option; this has also been removed. The constitutional powers of municipalities and panchayats over planning are simply ignored,” they alleged.

Intellectuals have also opposed the Bill’s provision for state level committees comprising only bureaucrats, who will be taking all decisions.

“Even where people’s right to control these resources has been wrested after prolonged struggles, as in Fifth and Sixth Schedule Areas or in forest areas, the bureaucracy rides roughshod over the law itself in order to maintain its power.

This undemocratic system is geared to serve private interests, which are dressed up as ‘development’, be it Noida, Jashpur, POSCO or Adarsh,” the statement said.

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