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We're not asking for the moon: Left

By Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI, DEC. 1. The Left today endorsed a People's Declaration on Development, Displacement and Rehabilitation that called for "pro-people development" as opposed to "destructive development." It urged the United Progressive Alliance Government to "implement its own programme as declared in the Common Minimum Programme."

"We differ with the neo-liberal development policies that do not benefit the poor. We are not asking for the moon, only for the UPA Government to implement its own policies as agreed to in the CMP," said the CPI national secretary, D. Raja, while endorsing the declaration put forth by the National Alliance of People's Movements on the concluding day of its National Convention on Development, Displacement and Rehabilitation.

New alignment

Mr. Raja said the new realignment of political and social forces that had come to governance in the country was committed to implementing land reforms and all land ceiling laws. "Time has come to evolve proper strategies and to see what the Government has achieved through the CMP. Here is an opportunity to fight the WTO and its adverse conditionality, the IMF, the World Bank and, at the same time, be pro-poor, pro-Dalits and pro-people."

The Union Water Resources Minister, Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, said that no water project in the country would be given the green signal unless there was a guarantee of complete rehabilitation of the affected people. While there was a `Catch 22' situation regarding displacement and development projects, he would prefer to take the middle path. "I would first decide `development for whom' then look at who would lose out in the process and how to rehabilitate them."

Others who lent their support to the declaration included the socialist leader, Surendra Mohan, Abni Roy and Manoj Bhattacharya of the RSP, Debavrata Biswas and G. Devarajan of the Forward Bloc, the former Planning Commission adviser, Shekhar Singh, advocate Surekha Dalvi, journalist Kuldip Nayyar, activist Amarnath and the alliance convener, Medha Patkar.

On Tuesday, the former Prime Minister, V.P. Singh, had committed himself to the struggle of those displaced by mega projects. The declaration said: "The choice of technology for development must be one that generates more livelihood opportunities, is least destructive of natural resources, least displacing of people, enables fulfilment of basic needs; ensures equitable distribution of benefits, supports sustainable use of natural resources and gives the right of information to people."

Rehabilitation policy

It called for the replacement of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 (amended in 1984) by a national enactment which defines all parameters of rehabilitation of people whose lands are acquired.

It sought the reformulation of the National Rehabilitation Policy leading to the formulation of a National Rehabilitation Act. Special Commissions on Displacement and Rehabilitation should be constituted at national and state levels with judicial and quasi-judicial powers. "We reject the economics of gigantism and instead prefer small, local and decentralised projects,'' the declaration said and underscored the need for a realignment of policies that were people-centric and participatory.

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