Governments have wrong notion on development, says Medha Patkar

'Social impact assessment is essential before implementing mega projects'

Activist and Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar said “the governments have perverted vision on development. Whenever they want, they raise the issue of environment concern and are ready to do away with the environment issues when it comes to investment by corporates.”

Speaking after flagging off a boat rally organised under the banner of Kerala Swathanthra Malsyathozhily Federation, National Fish Workers Forum and Coastal Karnataka Fishermen’s Action Committee, from Mangaluru to Thiruvananthapuram, aimed at protection of sea, coast, inland water bodies and fisheries resources here on Friday, she flayed the Modi government over a move to amend provisions of the Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, 2013.

 “The consent and social impact assessment provision was introduced to do away with the anomalies. Earlier, farmers who were dependent on the land were never consulted while initiating a project. Fertile land were given to private corporates in the name of development. It will be a retrograde step if we go back to the British legacy. The new land acquisition act was the result of mass movements across the country,” she said.  Social impact assessment is essential before taking up any project, she added.

“Modi visited Japan as investors from Japan have invested in industrial corridors back in India. It is a tragedy that agreements at the global level do not come for discussion in the Parliament or assembly. No one has any clear cut idea on the issues dealt in the agreements signed at the global level,”  Patkar said.

“Fishermen are asserting their right to stay near their livelihood,” she said. Stating that the previous UPA government shelved Murari committee report and constituted Meera Kumari committee.

The Meera Kumari committee has welcomed foreign fishing vessels and foreign crews to fish on the Indian water. This is direct violation of the recommendations of P Murari Committee, according to which no further licenses should be provided to foreign fishing vessels. If the policies of the UPA government are followed by the Modi government, then fishing sector will be pushed to a major crisis.

“The government has a false contention that those who have money are real investors. Those who invest on land and water like fishermen and farmers for livelihood are not in favour of development. Fishermen should show their strength by unitedly fighting for rights.

Fishermen, agriculturists, tribals are the one who live with nature and engaged in bringing in balance in nature.

National Fishworkers Forum secretary T Peter said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised of Blue revolution before the parliamentary election. However, the budget of the central government was disappointing. The fishermen urged for the creation of a separate ministry for Fisheries.

Peter said coastal land were being given to tourism and industries while the rights of the fishermen were being curtailed. Foreign vessels are allowed to fish in Indian waters. This will adversely affect the Indian fishermen.

The government should reject the recommendations of an Meena Kumari committee to allow joint ventures with foreign vessels to fish in Buffer Zone (where sea water is 200 ft to 300 ft deep). Instead, Indian fishing community should be encouraged to catch fish in the zone using modern technology.

A march to New Delhi will be organised later to pressurise the Union government to heed to the demands of fishermen.

He said the government should take measures to ensure that boat owners get subsidised kerosene. No boat owner was able to receive subsidised kerosene because it was reserved for BPL card holders. “Will a mechanised boat owner possess a BPL card?” he said.

Minister for Fisheries Abhayachandra Jain said that the government is committed to protect the interest of the farmers. As a part of the rally, six boats from Mangaluru took part in the boat march. The campaign will witness a series of public meetings along the west coast, culminating at a national conference in Thiruvananthapuram on November 30.

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