‘Implementation of new Land acquisition law will end displacement of tribals’

Criticising public sector undertakings (PSUs) for the displacement of many tribals, Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh on Sunday blamed their actions for the growth of Naxalism in various States and reiterated that the era of “forcible land acquisition” was over.

Mr. Ramesh said if the new Land Acquisition law Act was implemented properly, it would end the “inhumane” displacement of tribals from forests and address Naxalism.

“If this [new] land acquisition law is properly implemented, it will defeat Naxalism,” he said, referring to incidents of “inhumane” displacement of tribals from forests for various public and private sector projects in mineral-rich States like Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh,” he said. “The record of PSUs in displacements is worse than the record of the private sector. This is a sad truth... that more displacement has been caused by the government and public sector projects than private sector projects...particularly in Naxal areas. And this is why Naxalism has grown in these areas,” he added.

The Minister criticised the National Thermal Power Corporation for allegedly seeking police help for forcibly acquiring land in Keredari block of Jharkhand's Hazaribagh district, where a villager agitating against land acquisition was shot dead nearly two months ago.

“Companies must also learn to be sensitive, changing aspirations. The NTPC will face a challenge. If there is firing in an NTPC project and people get killed in that firing, they cannot acquire the land...Indian companies still believe that they can use government to forcibly acquire land. That era is gone.”

“You cannot do forcible acquisition,” the Minister said when asked about the reported criticism by a top NTPC official of the new Land Acquisition Bill.

The Bill has dedicated a separate chapter to protect the interests of tribals and those belonging to the Scheduled Castes. Additionally, the Bill stipulates that as far as possible no acquisition shall take place in the scheduled areas. And where such acquisition does take place it has to be done with the approval or consent of the local institutions of self-governance (including the autonomous councils where they exist).

Mr. Ramesh was addressing Hindi and regional media two days after Parliament passed the 'Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2013'. He added that the century old Land Acquisition Act, 1894, had a “very important role” in encouraging Maoist activities in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, parts of tribal Maharashtra and tribal Andhra Pradesh.

“The Bill aims to provide fair compensation to owners whose land is taken over, bring transparency to the process and lays down measures for rehabilitation of those displaced. The new law will be notified in three months.”

“Land Acquisition is the root of the Maoist issue. If you have a humane, sensitive and responsible land acquisition policy, lot of your problems relating to Naxalism would go. Tribals will be with you. It is a fact that many of the tribals have been displaced and they have not got proper compensation, they have not got rehabilitation and resettlement...particularly in mining of coal and irrigation projects,” he added.

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