The Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012, (LARR) has gone through various standing committees of Parliament. Terms like ‘industrial corridor’ have been included in the Bill under the definition of ‘infrastructure’. However, infrastructure has been excluded on several other issues.
Of 16 Acts under which land is being acquired in the country, only three have been taken under the purview of the new bill. Hence, the new LARR bill comes into effect only if land is acquired under these three Acts.
For example, the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act does not allow for direct land acquisition. For SEZs, land is acquired under the Industries (Development And Regulation) Act, or National Highways Authority of India Act. These Acts are not included in the provisions of the new bill (LARR). If land for Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) is acquired under the provisions of Land Acquisition Act, then the provision of new bill will not come into effect. So, we don’t know much about the impact of the new law.
Also, this isn’t a matter of resettlement. Discussion starts with development and its idea. People who depend on nature and natural resources work hard and are raising questions about this idea of development. They are raising these questions because it not only poses a threat to their work and livelihoods but it also affects their lifestyle. They are being converted into labourers although they own land. This is dismantling their lifestyle, which is full of naivety, self-respect and self-reliance. Their environment and natural resources are being exploited and taken away.
Common men and women think that these resources are of importance for them, but it seems that these are being taken away by elite class. No one is against infrastructure development but land grab to provide benefits to national and multinationals by selling land on minimum prices is a big issue. This needs to be questioned.
So, the question that arises is, what should be done to ensure that positives outweigh negatives. Firstly, such schemes should be made public because these are neither discussed in Parliament nor in the Vidhan Sabhas. It is important that the information must be passed on to Gram Panchayats and Gram Sabhas, and also to those urban areas that are coming under its ambit.
The information should not be restricted to displacement and rehabilitation. We must also include the economic front, whether they (the displaced families) would benefit or would incur loss; on what basis would employment be increased; what would be the impact on other employment opportunities; and how many families will have to face distress in sustaining their livelihood.
Secondly, it should also include impact assessment. For that we need to measure and count its impact on the environment as per the guidelines of the Environment Protection Act, 1986. So, where is the assessment, where is the report or where is the public debate on that issue?
In case a construction work is taking place within an area of 20,084 metres, then it is mandatory to discuss that matter with the people residing in that area so that the impact (of the construction) on water reservoirs and electricity could be easily measured as per the notification mentioned in the Environment Impact Assessment, 2006 under the Environment (Protection) Rules 1986. During construction, the water channels from nearby areas will be diverted, enormous amount of power would be consumed as the project would be given preference, and they (project officials) would also be given enormous rebate on taxes.
In the last six years, a rebate of Rs 30 lakh crore has been given to the companies whereas the subsidies given to the farmers are taken over in the name of World Trade Organisation (WTO) and this is why people should be made aware of all these facts. Even the public representatives are not taken into consideration, so, they should raise the questions in Parliament. Whether the plan of the project is prepared or not? If the project’s social, economic and environmental aspects are not debated and it is not clarified that country's resources, techniques and industries generating employment opportunities have been given preference, we cannot say whether this project has been planned for urbanisation or not. So, we need to do an equity analysis on how this project would create differences between agricultural and industrial sectors or between rural and urban areas.
(Medha Patkar is the well-known Indian activist who played an active role in Narmada Bachao Andolan and ensured that the displaced people — farmers and tribal — got their rights including land in lieu of acquisition of their farmlands. She is known for violence-free agitations and leading the masses from the front.)