People’s movements and organisations vowed to challenge and protest the ruling government’s neo-imperialism model through legal and grassroots strategies and safeguard the spirit of the constitution.
New Delhi: National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and Bhumi Adhikar Andolan (BAA) organised a conference on Monday at Gandhi Peace Foundation to uncover and challenge the regressive and anti-people amendments being made to land, forest, environment and other laws infringing on people’s sovereignty and rights.
Hundreds of representatives from the farmers-workers organisation, grassroots movements and frontal organisations of political parties assembled to deliberate on the grave threat posed upon farmers, fisher people, tribal, Dalit and other communities of India by non-implementation and anti-people amendments to laws meant to protect them.
An analytical note on State Amendments to the Central Land Act, 2013, was also circulated in Hindi and English to document all the ways in which the government passed the buck to state governments to grab land and resources for corporate use. Amendments to laws, disrespect of the central law, changing the land purchasing policies were some of the tactics observed by the conference and they added that most changes came in effect in 2014. Gujarat Government ruled out the role of Parliament in approving the urgency clause mentioned in section 40 of the central act. This reflects the continued tendencies to undermine democracy and established procedures, as has been done in the past while passing State Acts like Special Investment Region Act. Many such tactics were employed by different states throughout the country.
The arrests of hundreds of Adivasis, rights and environmental activists, criminalisation of the land rights and Pathalgarhi movements point to the desperation of the capital to illegally facilitate plunder and loot of people and natural resources.
“The demand for land and land acquisition has become essential to many of the grand infrastructure projects like Industrial Corridors, Sagarmala, Bharatmala, Smart cities, Bullet trains etc, planned by many of the state governments. This has meant changes in the land laws, environmental laws, mining laws, forest right act, labour laws and so on. All this has also close links to the reforms being carried out in order to improve the ease of doing business rankings and the expected foreign investments from international financial institutions and other sources. These retrograde and anti-people reforms are facilitating assault and harassment on farmers, workers, activists, journalists and overall on the nation’s sovereignty itself. The lack of political will and the insecurity of the State is more than evident in the non-implementation of the Forest Rights Act 2006, through bureaucratic delays and denial of claims on frivolous grounds in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and the hill states of Himachal and Uttarakhand,” the invite said.
The consensus of the conference was that “The provisions in Chapter II and III of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (RFCTLARR Act) are soul and essence of the Act. It reflects the objectives of the Act and the Amendments to the Act enacted by the State of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Jharkhand essentially negate that, thus ultra vires and violation of Right to Life, Art 21. These anti-people amendments and rules drafted by the States for the Act came in after the Land Ordinance of 2014 and 2015 failed due to stiff opposition from across the country.
“People’s leaders Hannan Mollah (All India Kisan Sabha), Medha Patkar (Narmada Bachao Andolan & National Alliance of People’s Movements), Sudha Bhardwaj (Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan), Prafulla Samantara (NAPM), Ashok Chaudhary (All India Union of Forest Working People), T Peter (National Fishworkers Forum), Arvind Anjum (Visthapit Mukti Vahini), Kailash Meena (NAPM), Anil Chaudhary (Bhumi Adhikar Andolan) flagged this period in India’s history as a critical period where people must get together to challenge the draconian policies of the ruling government. The changes brought to the land laws, Forest Right Act, Coastal Regulation Zone, Environment and Mining Laws are all aimed at facilitating corporate loot and transfer of the precious natural resources from common people of this country. We are moving towards another Company Raj and unfortunately it is being facilitated by our elected representatives, a direct attack on the people’s sovereignty,” a release by the group said.
The Conference saw a presentation from Environmentalist Kanchi Kohli, Meera Sanghamitra (NAPM), Tushar Das, Debashish Shyamal (NFF), Amit Kumar (NAPM), Alok Shukla (Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan), Arvind Murti, Ajai Kumar Sharma from different states. The farmers from Amravati Capital Region Andhra Pradesh led by Seshagiri Rao lamented the fact that modern-day Tuglaq’s are dreaming of grand projects at the cost of damage to people and environment. These dreams need to be challenged and farmers of Andhra are challenging this but need support from across the country.
Noted lawyers like Prashant Bhushan, Sanjay Parikh from Delhi, Anand Yagnik from Gujarat, Pratyush Mishra from Madhya Pradesh addressed the meeting and discussed the critical legal points and loopholes in the laws and expressed support and resolve to fight these violations.