Yet again, the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill could not be presented in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. When this Bill will be presented and when the troubles of crores of farmers in India will end, nobody can tell. Currently, many small and big agitations are being held on the issue of forceful land acquisition in India. Situations like that of Nandigram, Singhur, Bhatta Parsaul, Nagdi, Jaitapur and Kudankulam has cropped up in many other states. Industrialists are hankering for more land than their requirement, so the Central and State Governments who have become their property dealers, are doing the work of forceful acquisition. Amongst all these atrocities, helpless innocent farmers first lose their land and then their lives too. Last year, in the Bhatta Parsaul area of Greater Noida, when there was a bloody fight between the farmers and the police force on the issue of land acquisition, then the Central Government had made a promise of making changes in the Acquisition laws which were running from the days of British rule and making a new law. The Central Government sent this to a Standing Committee of Parliament. The Standing Committee submitted its report to the Government. The Committee gave some very good proposals in the report which were beneficial for the farmers, but the Ministry of Rural Development along with some other Ministries did not agree to the proposals made by the Standing Committee. So, the much expected Land Acquisition Bill could not be presented in the Monsoon Session of Parliament which ended recently.
As a result, the Central Government forwarded the Land Acquisition Bill related proposals to the Group of Ministers (GoM). After the proposals were made by the Standing Committee, many political parties of the country, members attached with the Standing Committee and various social organisations are demanding the Central Government to give their nod to these proposals, which contain many things linked to the betterment of crores of farmers in the country. However the Central Government is not ready to listen to anything on this issue, because they are worried about the industrial houses, who are increasing pressure to ensure that the new Land Acquisition Bill should not prove to be costly for them in terms of benefits. Now this Bill has been suspended in darkness, so to speak, and the Central Government is trying to wash evade its responsibilities. In Delhi, on the issue of the Land Acquisition Bill, different representatives from different political parties, working members of various social welfare organisations and a few members of the Standing Committee discussed the matter comprehensively. Senior leader of the Congress Party, former Cabinet minister and a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, Mani Shankar Aiyar commented strongly and publicly on the views of his own Government and its Ministers who are involved in the Land Acquisition Bill. We present these comments, so that the strategy, fate and reality of the Congress Party become clear to the people of the country.
“The voice of the people has reached my ears. In the Standing Committee I got a lot of opportunities to meet the representatives of the people and we focused on the facts and stressed that till the time all the people’s representatives tell us about their issues, we will not start with the preparation of this report. I do not think that the end to this issue is possible now. So keeping Parliamentary decorum in mind we have not told anybody about the things that are happening within the Committee. After I presented my report in Parliament, and it was later given a public form, it was only then that I made my comments. I want to put some stress on the fact that we presented the report in Parliament, so that it reaches the Government. Not this that the report reaches just one Ministry or reaches just one Minister. Within a few days of the Ministry of Rural Development receiving the report, I could see that at different places the Ministry and the Minister himself had started to voice their criticism. Medha Patkar has given me a document, which the Rural Development Minister had prepared on 12 June. Later all these reached the media, but I and Manikrao Gavit could not get our hands on it. When the report is presented to the Government then it might be a possibility that the view point of the Government is different on that issue. The Government presents its view point when it comes back in Parliament and presents its Bill. The way in which pulls were exerted on us, made it necessary for us to make our comments, although I had already presented everything from my side. This is against the Parliamentary code of conduct and a refutation has to be done. I would not like to say if Jairam Ramesh is saying something right or not. It is none of my business, with any Jairam Ramesh or “JAIRAVAN” Ramesh. My communication is with the Government and the Government has not presented its view point yet. So, I would like say that there are two to three basic issues in our Standing Committee report.
Actual Meaning of Public Purpose
The actual meaning of public purpose can be explained by a ten year old child, that is, the meaning of public purpose can be nothing but public purpose. How can you add your personal purposes to it? If you will go through the new draft then you will find that it is the same draft that was made previously. It means that the Government can announce any thing to be of public purpose according to their will. Suppose we get such a stupid Prime Minister, who for making a huge ‘pandal’ for his daughter’s marriage, acquires land in the name of public purpose. It was necessary that we should have paid attention on the history of public purpose. – Mani Shankar Aiyar
The discussions or talks which are going on about public purpose, it is very important to understand one thing that in any capitalist country and developed democratic country Land Acquisition does not happen for personal gains. This does not happen in Canada, America, Britain, France, Germany and Japan. There is no other country, apart from India, where Land Acquisition is done on behalf of the country and then those lands are given to private organisations. One example is of the Northern Territories of Australia, where a lot of tribals are settled. No private organisation can go there and buy land. Approximately 90 per cent land of Australia is co-terminus to the Northern Territories. The private organisations apply to the Government to buy land. The Government there visits the spot and assesses the situation. What will be the displacement because of this and what will be the arrangement for settlement due to that, only after assessing this can that land be given to private companies. There is
another example of the Narita International Airport in Japan. This might be among the biggest airports in the world. Efforts were made for its expansion, but the local people did not agree to sell their land. After this the Airport Authority asked the Government to acquire this land. The Government in its reply said that they cannot acquire the land. They suggested that they speak with the owner of the land. If he is not ready to give his land then we cannot expand this airport. Forceful land acquisition cannot be even thought of in Germany and France.
When the British Empire was established in India, then in the year 1894 a new law was made for India, only for laying the railway tracks. Before Independence, railways were with the companies. Nationalisation of the railways took place after Independence. Later on a few Amendments were brought up. With the expansion of the railway tracks, the need for land kept on increasing. In the year 1962, many cases went to the Supreme Court because the state could acquire land for the purpose of the new companies which were made in the public sector. After acquiring they could give it to the public sector companies, but still there was a huge uproar in the Parliament. Land acquisition for the purpose of industrialisation is not right, because industrialisation goes ahead for its own benefits. In the year 1962, the Indian Government had given an assurance that the new law can be passed for the time being, and later we will bring one more law or draft for this purpose. However the making of the draft took a 22 years to come ! Then also a solid draft was not made. A few amendments were made without doubt, but its purpose was that the Government would conduct the land acquisition to help the privative companies gain a lot of benefit.
Since 1984, a lot of uproar is going on in the country. The stories of Bhatta Parsaul, Singur and Nandigram are known to all. There have been a lot of brawls and scraps in other parts of the country as well. This is the reason that the Government has spoken about the making of new laws for rehabilitation and resettlement. We will look at it by joining it with the land acquisition. This was a very new thing. It means that for land acquisition you should have the consent of the people to whom this land belongs or who live as refugees on that land. The Bill was made with this purpose, but was made very hastily. Our Standing Committee has also criticised this. The Government said that the public may send their comments till 31 August. Those who have computers, they sent their comments, because everything was online. Within one week, the draft of this law was presented to the Cabinet. On this matter, I said that what attention have you have paid to the suggestions and opinions of the common people. We have surely violated the norms as we have ignored the comments of the public. We have been ordered that within one month the Standing Committee should finish its work and that is why we were unable to listen to the public and consequently we (Members of the Standing Committee) had to listen to the epithets of the public.
From this two-four things became clear. The actual meaning of public purpose can be explained by a ten year old child, that is, the meaning of public purpose can be nothing but public purpose. How can you add your personal purposes to it? If you will go through the new draft then you will find that it is the same draft that was made previously. It means that the Government can announce any thing to be of public purpose according to their will. Suppose we get such a stupid Prime Minister, who for making a huge ‘pandal’ for his daughter’s marriage, acquires land in the name of public purpose. It was necessary that we should have paid attention on the history of public purpose. How do other countries fulfil this public purpose? Land acquisition cannot be done for personal benefit in any democracy. You can know the reasons behind it from any economist. For manufacturing any product we require three things. The first is labour, then capital and the third one is land. You cannot do capital acquisition. Suppose if one company wants to buy another company and one of the personal share holders do not want to sell it, then no one can force the share holder. It is also not legal that the Government interferes there and says that if you will not sell it, then we will forcefully acquire it. And then we will give it to them or whoever wants to buy it.
When human acquisition is not possible, capital acquisition is not possible, then why Land Acquisition ? If the owner of the land wants to sell his land then you can easily take his land. We have mentioned in the Bill and the Government has also said that, if you want to buy land whose area is more than 50 acres in the cities and 100 acres in the villages then you have make a special arrangement for the people who were dependent on that land. The Government should give Resettlement and Rehabilitation to them. This is a remarkable thing in this Bill. During the debate on this issue, some members of the Committee said that how can you keep the same criteria for the entire country. For example, in Rajasthan, in the desert area of Barmer district, you can buy even 300 acres of land, but perhaps you will find no one else there except camels. But in Kerala where will you find land of 100 acres? We have been told that we should leave it to the State Governments. Then, the matter of compensation came forward, on which they were saying many things. The Constitution was shown, long discussions was held and then we said what will be mentioned in this law will be that the State Government can bring in a few changes, in what ways you will give compensation to the farmers, either through cash or through any other option.
I am ready to look over it again, but according to my information, many conditions have been provided for Resettlement in the Third Schedule. In the meantime, by ignoring that matter I want to say that whatever draft has been presented before us, in that the right to decide everything has been given to the bureaucracy or to the experts. Hello Brother, the people who will be taking the compensation are not the bureaucrats or the experts, they are those helpless people who are living there. You are telling that those who live there would not be heard because they are not bureaucrats or experts. But actually the land belongs to them or they are dependent on that land. A meeting of the Village Council will be arranged there and everybody will be invited. But God knows whether they will be invited or not. We said that on such a important issue, you have made four to five points. Before Land Acquisition, why don’t you consult the Head of the village, in some cases the District Council, the Taluka Panchayat and the Panchayat Committee? The head of the village panchayat should be involved in this. You should discuss every point which you want to decide with the Village Council. Tribals reside in Orissa. When I was touring there as a Minister of Panchayati Raj, then I told the officials to open the documents and show them to me. Every document was written in English, but not a single person of that village knew English. This is a method of the bureaucracy that they only write in English. They write such great Englnish that a person who has studied from Cambridge University also cannot understand what is written in it. Actually they write it for themselves only. So I told that regional language must be the only medium of communication. Firstly, you should write the documents in the language of the local people and then you stood make them understand what is written in the documents. That is why I insisted that the meeting of the Village Council should be held often. When there is discussion to be held, the members of the Panchayat should be present there. Then it will be their duty to go to the Village Council and make the villagers understand that the topic was this and we have taken these steps. So I am not concerned by the comments of Jairam Ramesh, because he is not the Government, he is only just a Minister.
The government will have to pay attention to this issue after all your efforts and public discussions. We are not talking about legal documents. We are talking about those people who are illiterate and are going to take the burden of this development scheme on their shoulders. Around 10 crores people have been displaced due to this Land Acquisition. Among those 10 crores, 6.5 crores are tribals. If you attack the tribals, then it quite obvious that one of them would lift the gun. Often we give the example of Andhra Pradesh, that we have removed terrorism from there. You didn’t remove; instead you have sent them to Orissa and Chhattisgarh. God forbid we don’t remove the terrorism from Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand in the same manner and all the terrorists reach Kolkata and Mumbai.”