Social activist Medha Patkar on Sunday criticised the people at the helm for what she termed as betraying the community, which had the first right to natural resources such as land.

Stating that the elected representatives had no knowledge of the real issues confronting the people she said, certain decisions of the Government had made the people stand against them.

She was among the many social activists, who spoke after hearing the grievances of the people displaced by the Mangalore Special Economic Zone at the “People’s audit” of the project, organised by the Krishibhumi Samrakshana Samiti and Karavali Karnataka Janabhivrudhdhi Vedike.

Ms. Patkar said that money power and the laws drawn from the British era, and the corrupt system were cheating the farmers. This had emerged strongly during the people’s audit on Saturday, she said while complimenting them for coming out boldly about their problems.

In Karnataka, Rs. 25,000 crore was being invested on about 50 special economic zones. Describing the SEZ as “Special Exploitation Zones”, Ms. Patkar regretted the creation of corporate giants owning lands up to 50,000 hectares. Comparing this with farmers’ land-holdings, which did not touch even 50 hectares, she said a huge disparity was being created in society leading to displacement of people. She said that the Union Government was trying to amend the Land Acquisition Act 1894, by giving a new definition for land acquisition that was worse than the one given by the British, and the National Rehabilitation Act, 1998, in the forthcoming Budget, which would deprive the people of the right to approach courts. The latter would force the people to accept only monetary compensation. This would be opposed by several social groups in New Delhi for three days beginning November 18, she said. Social and political activist Aruna Roy said that the people, who got elected by promising to protect the community, were themselves destroying the natural resources (by acquiring it for projects such as SEZs). Even the foreign invaders were not guilty of such criminal acts, she said.

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