The National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) along with several civil society groups under the umbrella of “Sangharsh” is sitting on a three-day protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi against the new land acquisition Bill. Terming the Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement and Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Bill, 2012, “pro-corporate and pro-investors”, the protesters are demanding radical changes in the Bill which is expected to be introduced in the current session of Parliament.

Addressing a large gathering of protesters on Wednesday, Madhuresh Kumar, national organiser of NAPM, said the Government needs to change the Bill which in its present form not only “betrays” the aam aadmi but also goes against the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the issue.

Giving an instance, Mr. Kumar said that on the issue of food security and acquisition of agricultural land the Parliamentary Standing Committee recommended that there should not be any forcible acquisition of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes and also of both single and multiple crop land, but the Bill says only multiple crop land would not be forcibly acquired.

While protesters who came from across the country raised the slogan of “Jo Jameen Sarkari Hai, Woh Jameen Hamari Hai” (The land that belongs to the government, rightfully belong to the people of country’), Dr. Sunilam of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti said: “Around 75 per cent of the agricultural land in India is single cropped which is mostly held by Dalits, Adivasis and marginal farmers. It is essential to protect them and all farm land for food security, which comes not from Public Distribution System but from the self-sufficient agriculture.”

“The Bill completely overlooks the millions of urban working people impacted by urban projects and displacement, which needs to be rectified before it is placed in Parliament,” he added.

“The business as usual of handing over large tracts of land to public and private corporations for non-public purposes can't continue anymore,” said Medha Patkar of NAPM in her message to the protesters, adding, “The new land acquisition Bill has to be in light with the existing political realities and waging conflict over natural resources in the country led by millions of farmers, workers, forest dwellers, fishermen, and those dependent on the natural resources for livelihood.”

Even though she conceded that the Bill has certain provisions as suggested by the social movements, Ms. Patkar alleged the Bill will “only further the land conflict because it legitimises land acquisition of most kinds even for private profit, and is only trying to play with language of transparency and fair compensation”.

While challenging the Government to pass the Bill in its present form in the ongoing session, the speakers at the protest venue said the Bill will face the same fate as that of the LAA (Land Acquisition Act) Amendments Bill that UPA-1 tried to pass in the Rajya Sabha in 2009.

“The issue is political and you have to talk to the people who are the real stakeholders. If you continue to talk to India Inc. you wouldn’t get anything,” said Mr. Kumar, while arguing that the centralised planning process for development projects must give way to participatory and consent based planning, whereby the Gram Sabhas and Basti Sabhas should have the primary say in deciding what kind of development is required for the area and what constitutes public purpose which is nowhere in the Bill.

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