Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Land Bill will hit dryland farmers, says VJAS-TIMES OF INDIA

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Land Bill will hit dryland farmers, says VJAS

NAGPUR: Vidarbha Civil Society Collective and Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) have raised strong objections to provisions in the National Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill 2011 tabled in Parliament on Wednesday. They demanded that the Bill be redrafted to safeguard interests of the dryland farmers and other landowners.

"The Bill has ignored all suggestions made by the civil society and farmer advocacy groups. A month ago the rural development minister Jairam Ramesh had sought the suggestions from the people. It is clear from the final draft that the proposed law is nothing but a move to smoothen the process of transferring to corporates drylands of farmers in areas like Vidarbha," Kishore Tiwari of VJAS alleged.

He demanded that the Bill be scrapped and sent back to a parliamentary committee for redrafting to safeguard interests of dryland farmers and to ensure food security. This is essential as the Bill has included provisions for conditional acquisition of multi-crop land as well, Tiwari stressed. The Bill is against the fundamental rights of farmers in distressed regions like Vidarbha who are already reeling under huge debts and willing to selling off lands as government policies had made agriculture uneconomical, said Tiwari. If the law is implemented, farming community in Vidarbha will be eliminated, he added.

The Vidarbha Civil Society Collective, a grouping of a number of social and civil rights organizations held a public discussion on the issue last month after Jairam Ramesh sought suggestions on the draft Bill. The group then sent a letter to the Union minister listing its observations.

It was of the view that the Bill was against the preamble of Indian constitution. There was hardly any material difference from the draconian Land Acquisition Act of 1894 that it seeks to replace, the Collective opined. VCSC has also found that the Bill reduced the government to a 'service agent' of the multinationals and corporates. There is no clear demarcation about public and private purposes in the Bill, it said.

Nitin Chaudhary of Lokadhikar Manch said the Bill did not give space to women and youth to be part of decision-making rendering them vulnerable when their land is sold. The compensation offered is far less than the market value. Moreover, there is no mention of farm labourer who will be rendered jobless once agricultural land is acquired, he said.

VCSC has also demanded that instead of the district collector, the local panchayat and gram sabha should be empowered to deal with the land acquisition process from the beginning. It has sought an assurance that there would be no damage to environment because of large-scale land acquisition.

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