‘Raigad votes against SEZ in referendum’


Mumbai, Sept. 22 A majority of people in the 22 villages in Raigad district have voted against the SEZ in the referendum process which was held on Sunday, claimed Mr N.D. Patil, senior leader of Peasants and Workers Party of India, who is spearheading the agitation.

The State Government is likely to announce the result of the referendum in next 15 days.

The promoters of Maha Mumbai SEZ, which includes promoters of Reliance Industries Ltd, want to set up 10,000 hectares SEZ in the district.

SEZ is expected to attract an investment of nearly Rs 40,000 crore and generate 20 lakh jobs.

Mr Patil said that although the Maharashtra Government has undertaken the referendum process, it is not necessary that the report would be tabled any time in the near future.

“When under pressure, the State Government acts in a circular manner.

“The report could be further handed over to a committee, which will take the further circuitous route,” he said.

Mr Patil said that the people of the district do not want SEZ and no amount of compensation from the corporate houses and government will change their view about selling their land.

A senior official in the industries department said that in the eventuality of referendum going against the promoters of the SEZ, the land acquisition process for the other mega projects and SEZs in the State will suffer.

“We will not be mute spectators; we are also prepared for a court battle,” Mr Patil said.

Raigad villagers participate in referendum on Reliance project
21 Sep, 2008, 1717 hrs IST, IANS


PEN/MUMBAI: Thousands of villagers around Pen area in Maharashtra’s Raigad district Sunday took part in a referendum to decide the fate of Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Group’s proposed Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
District Collector Vinayak Nipun and Superintendent of Police Pradeep Digavkar were present to monitor the referendum – the country’s first on an industrial project – even as a huge security blanket covered Pen, around 150 km from Mumbai, a police official told IANS.
Residents of 22 villagers who will be affected by the Reliance Group’s mega-project came out in substantial numbers to give their verdict on the SEZ.
During the referendum, a small group of people at one village opposed to the project and raised anti-Reliance and anti-government slogans.
Around 10,000 farmers from these villages are reluctant to part with 3,415 hectares of land for the project, touted to be Asia’s largest.
Through the referendum, the district administration is ascertaining their views and recording their statements, which will be forwarded to the state government.
The villagers’ sentiments shall be taken into consideration before deciding whether the proposed Rs.400-billion (Rs.40,000-crore) project can come up in that region or not.
A district official said the outcome of Sunday’s referendum may be available only by early October.
The Reliance SEZ is slated to come up over 10,000 hectares in Pen, Uran and Panvel sub-districts of Raigad. However, the group has faced stiff resistance from the people of Pen, necessitating the referendum.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena executive president Udhav Thackeray has offered to secure a better financial deal for farmers willing to sell their land for the SEZ.
He made the offer to a delegation of villagers that called on him in Mumbai two days ago and conveyed the sentiments of the local population regarding the SEZ.

PIL seeking ban on acquisition of agricultural land dismissed

23 Sep 2008, 0327 hrs IST,TNN


NEW DELHI: The Raigad referendum may have seen farmers casting their vote against acquisition of agricultural land, but that did not deter the Supreme Court on Monday from dismissing a PIL seeking a direction to the government to acquire only barren land for SEZs and other public purposes.
Listing the repercussions of acquiring agricultural land, a PIL filed by one Donald Fernandez argued before a bench that the government be restrained from acquiring agricultural land and jeopardising foodgrain production.

Unimpressed, the bench said the plea for acquisition of only barren land was fraught with practical difficulties. “If the government wants to establish a hospital or a post office and is allowed acquisition of barren land 100 km away from the locality, will it serve public purpose,” the bench asked.
This means, the apex court refused to put any fetters on the government from acquiring agricultural land provided all other preconditions for such acquisition were met.
However, the same bench refused to dispose of a PIL complaining of faulty agricultural policies of the government, arguing that they had led to a spate of suicides by farmers.

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Asking the state to grab land has to stop


For fifty years, ever since he won his first election to Parliament, the same jibe has been hurled at Atal Bihari Vajpayee: ‘A good man in a bad party!’ From time to time, this would be accompanied by mock-sympathetic invitations to join Party X or Party Y or Party Z.
The former prime minister is a tolerant man. Someone less forgiving would be tempted to turn the tables on his tormentors today, and muse aloud that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee too is a ‘good man in a bad party’, and invite the beleaguered chief minister of West Bengal to leave his carping comrades for more congenial company!
I refer, of course, to Nandigram. The CPI-M is currently tying itself up in knots over the issue, its carefully cultivated image as the ‘people’s champion’ torn to shreds by the sight of all hell breaking loose in the green fields of Nandigram.
Even its allies in the Left Front are enjoying the discomfiture of the Marxist Big Brother, while the Congress has been dropping broad hints that any tie-up with the CPI-M is limited to Delhi, and definitely does not extend to West Bengal and Kerala.
The non-CPI-M parties are having so much fun abusing the CPI-M that they probably did not hear a couple of interesting statements, two by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and one by the party boss in Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan. Both men, however, are senior politicians and we must at least pay them the courtesy of hearing them out.
Here, first, is what the chief minister of West Bengal had to say about the genesis of the problem in Nandigram. It was, he said bluntly, the handiwork of Muslim fundamentalists.
You must also know that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said this not once, but twice. Even more interestingly, on each occasion it was to American listeners. I understand that the first statement came at a meeting with an Indo-American business council. The second, more intriguingly, was to a high official, with links to the US intelligence establishment, who had called on the chief minister.
Can you imagine the furore had a BJP chief minister said anything of the kind? (Actually, can you imagine the howls of outrage had a BJP functionary at any level met an American official?) Yet Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s remarks won little or no attention in a media titillated by Bob Woolmer’s murder.
Please note that the chief minister of West Bengal is one of the few ‘secular’ functionaries with any credibility on the issue of Muslim fundamentalism in India. He had previously spoken of the dangers of unchecked illegal immigration from Bangladesh, not once but repeatedly so.
Let us now turn to Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan’s bastion. According to the party boss, the West Bengal firing in Nandigram was in ‘self-defence.’ Please ponder a little over the implications of that statement. Pinarayi Vijayan is one of the 16 current members of the CPI-M Politburo, a man who has himself been a minister in Kerala. And he is saying that the agitators in Nandigram were equipped with modern arms, not just the crude spears and scythes they waved before the television cameras.
For more than half a century, Communists of all stripes have had two whipping-boys, namely ‘Western imperialism’ and ‘Hindu fundamentalism’. But today two senior CPI-M functionaries are blaming neither; they are laying all the blame at the doors of well-armed Muslim fundamentalists, probably instigated from abroad. If they are correct then the tragedy of Nandigram has only begun to unfold.
I have given you one side of the story. In the interests of fairness, here is an attempt at presenting the other side.
Let us grant that there is a heavy Muslim presence in Nandigram, where, I was told, roughly 40 per cent of the population is Muslim. But opposition to the CPI-M cut across the Hindu-Muslim divide, and the 60 per cent of the population that is Hindu appeared to be as vehemently anti-CPI-M as anyone else.
If reports are true, CPI-M workers in the area actually thought it necessary to band together in a safe camp!
Second, there is the peculiar incident that happened when Mamata Bannerjee tried to reach Nandigram. The CPI-M immediately accused her of fishing in troubled waters, and CPI-M workers prevented her entourage from getting to Nandigram. I repeat: It was not the police but the CPI-M proper that stopped her.
In other words, Nandigram was an area under siege by the Marxist cadre — which casts a smidgen of doubt on Pinarayi Vijayan’s portrait of his West Bengal comrades coming under fire.
There is one final point that I would like to make, namely that we should not ignore the economics while debating the politics. Special Economic Zones are here to stay. Lay aside Nandigram, or even West Bengal as a whole. The fact is that several chief ministers have recently written to Delhi, demanding that the Union government give the green signal to their own Special Economic Zones. That includes states such as Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, both of which have chief ministers belonging to the United Progressive Alliance.
The brutal fact is that agriculture has reached its limit as far as employment generation is concerned; the industrial and services sectors need to grow if future generations of India must get jobs, and if Special Economic Zones can give the process a boost, so be it.
But if Special Economic Zones are here to stay, why should the State get involved in acquiring land? Let the barons of industry negotiate directly with the owners of the land. If the current proprietors do not wish to sell, let industrialists persuade them to lease it. Or perhaps they could offer a combination of rent plus dividends, something that would make the peasants feel as if they have some stake in industrial enterprises coming up in their area.
The private sector often boasts of its capacity for innovation. Well, here is the opportunity to be proven correct. Persuade the peasant proprietors to part with property if you can manage it. But this business of asking the State to grab the land has got to stop!

Government waging war against farmers


New Delhi, March 30 (IANS) The Indian government has declared a kind of war against the poor and marginal farmers who are also up in arms against its regressive policies, environmental scientist Vandana Shiva said Friday.

“The government has declared a war against India’s small farmers. And war against farmers means war against 65 percent of the population,” Shiva told a press conference here.

Referring to the recent killings in Nandigram in West Bengal and large-scale farmer suicides in Vidharbha, Maharashtra, she said: “Our government is encouraging the throw-away policies of the West and pushing them through violence.”

According to her, policies driven by corporate globalisation are pushing farmers off the land and peasants out of agriculture, which is against the natural evolutionary process.

She said: “The government, by encouraging big business houses like Reliance, Wal-Mart, Monsanto, Cargill is trying to corporatise agriculture.”

“When the world is moving beyond the Wal-Mart model and the Americans are thinking of re-ruralisation, we are being asked to dismantle our mandis (wholesale markets), our haats (rural markets), increase food miles and aggravate climate chaos.”

“A small bio-diverse farm has higher productivity than large industrial farms which contribute to climate change,” Shiva added referring to a recent address by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to an industry body that small landholdings limit the chances to improve agricultural productivity.

On the issue of using genetically modified seeds and chemical fertilisers, she said: “The soil looses fertility through chemical fertilisers.”

As a solution to the problem, Shiva is planning to create a re-agricultural strategy in Nandigram and Vidharbha and formulate a food security system.

Cautioning the government about the upcoming general elections in 2009, she said: “If the anti-farmer and pro-corporate policies continue to be pushed by the prime minister the entire government will have to pay a heavy price.”

Keeping Indians poor: Grand government design

M R Venkatesh | March 27, 2007 |

A bit of digression at the outset is crucial to understand the depth of food depravation, associated poverty and the resultant food insecurity prevailing in India.

For the ordinary Indian it must be shocking to know that food security in India is a falsehood propagated repeatedly by the government since the mid-eighties.

To understand the enormity of the falsehood, let me put things in perspective. The net per capita food availability in India in 1971 was 394 gm per day. This was just after the onset of Green Revolution in India. Exactly 30 years later, in 2001, the net per capita of foodgrain availability was 396 gm per day: a princely rise of 2 gm! In effect, for over 30 years our farm growth has barely kept pace with our population growth. This sets up the debate.

A comparison with other countries is central to understanding the extent of food shortage prevailing in India. Advanced countries, on a per capita basis, consume anywhere between 500 gm to 600 gm per day. Such healthy consumption in these countries is supplementary to the substantial quantity of meat, fruits, vegetables and milk.

On this score, our consumption on a per capita level is far below the world average and significantly below the average of the developed countries. It would seem that, we as a nation, seem to have declared food self-sufficiency on virtually empty stomachs.

A reference to China is unavoidable here. China, a country with approximately 1.2 times our population, produces approximately 450 MT of foodgrain every year — more than double that of India. Does this comparison with other countries not blow the myth of self-sufficiency in India?

What is appalling is the fact that even after the British took over the reins of India, they constituted a commission to look into the quantity of food required in India, should India were to be hit by a famine. For this purpose, the per capita food consumption was held to be 500 gm per day by the said commission. It has to be noted that the British fixed this norm for consumption of Indians during a famine. It would seem that our colonial oppressors had a more charitable view than our own democratically elected government!

A callous approach to agriculture

Thousands of farmers have committed suicide in India in the past few years. Yet governments, both in the States and at the Centre, have been shying away from dealing with the issue appropriately. While there has been occasional media outcry, the ‘packages’ announced by the government have hardly made an impact. And if these packages do take effect, experience shows that this would at best be insignificant.

The issue is not merely of agriculture, food security and farmers: it is something much more. Agriculture is far too central to the Indian economy than can be imagined by many of us. It is our route to food security, economic well-being, poverty alleviation and, crucially, national security.

But like all other things in India, the seriousness of the issue is inversely proportional to the attention it gets.

Structural issues remain un-addressed

At the root of the current crisis in the farm sector is the fact that decades of neglect has de-legitimised the farm sector. There are a number of structural issues that remain un-addressed within the farm sector today. These include:

Farm Credit: Lack of an appropriate lending mechanism, which means farmers are forced to obtain credit at exorbitant rates from the informal sector. Though credit expansion by the formal sector has taken place in the recent past, it is inadequate.

Soaring costs of inputs: Apart from interest costs, other input costs (viz. seeds, power, etc) — barring fertiliser — have shown significant increase in the past few years. This rise in input costs has been disproportionately higher than the rise in the selling price of farm produce. Naturally farmers are reeling under huge debt, a sure sign of a losing economy.

Lack of water: Water is crucial to farm activity. Successive years of drought in many parts of India have reduced agriculture in India to a gamble on the monsoon. With a mere 40 per cent of farmland irrigated, Indian farmers have been at the mercy of the weather gods. Under the liberalisation programme, the fundamental assumption is that virtually every government activity can be privatized: however, it needs to be understood that irrigation and capital formation within the farm sector cannot be privatised so easily in India. It has to remain a government function, essentially.

Farmers are entrepreneurs. They take risks. Their risk gets compounded due to the vagaries of monsoon. They do not look to the State as a benefactor. Rather they would prefer the government to be a genuine facilitator in lowering these risks.

Today a farmer gets a fraction of the final retail price while a substantial portion of the prices that we pay for our food goes to the retailers, wholesalers, middlemen and others. These are structural issues that can be addressed only by the government.

And due to these distortions within the system we are witness to a strange paradox: rise in prices of farm products strangely resulting in farmers committing suicide.

However, due to fiscal orthodoxy and indifference to the farm sector, the government has been reluctant to deal with this issue of capital formation in the farm sector. And in areas where the government has done so, it has been far from satisfactory.

A leading daily in Chennai had recently exposed as to how despite the government spending in excess of Rs 35,000 crore (Rs 350 billion) in the past decade or so under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), there has not even been a marginal increase in the gross farm land under irrigation in the country, which virtually stands at 40% of the total farm land.

The Indian economy has yet to mature to expect that the private sector would step in to the space created due to the government’s exit. If the government cannot handle this crucial issue — of rural infrastructure — why do we have governments?

The government spends about Rs 26,000 crore (Rs 260 billion) every year on food subsidy, through the public distribution system (PDS), for those living below the poverty line. It is estimated that for every Re 1 of subsidy to reach the ultimate beneficiary, the government has to spend approximately Rs 7 on the administrative mechanism. In fact, of the 300 million poor estimated to be below the poverty line in the country, only 25 per cent are estimated to have access to PDS.

The rest are left to fend for themselves. In effect, the government’s programme — in intent and in execution — leaves a lot to be desired.

Yet, is it a failure of the delivery system, or is there something more to it than meets the eye?

Keeping farmers poor, a grand design

Speaking on the issue of farmers and the general lack of food security prevailing in the country, I suggested to a retired bureaucrat (who held very high positions in the Government of India) that India must double its food production from its existing 200 MT. This, I argued, would boost the income of the farmers as well as provide access to food at far cheaper rates to those living below the poverty line.

The bureaucrat was appalled. Clearly stating that India required nothing more than 200-220 MT of foodgrain, he dismissed my line of reasoning.

Crucially, through a paradigm of shortages, the government and its officers have increased their relevance, power and authority. In contrast, farmers have been reduced to play the role of applicants and would forever remain in the clutches of the State and its draconian agencies.

The net result of our ‘planned’ neglect of the farm sector has meant that today approximately 50 per cent of our population is malnourished. Some international agencies report that certain pockets in India suffer from acute malnutrition more than some African regions.

Robust growth in the farm sector acts as a trigger for overall economic growth. Economis
ts have been repeatedly pointing out that a one per cent growth in the farm sector acts as a significant multiplier in industry and the services sectors, leading to increases in aggregate demand within the Indian economy.

Despite a decade and half after the initiation of reforms, the government has yet to come out of its socialist mindset vis-�-vis the farm sector. This is not without purpose and falls within the government’s grand design of keeping farmers — and India — poor.

The failure of the farmers comes with an attendant and natural bonus — it can ensure that a substantial portion of our population is underfed, under-clothed and mired in acute poverty. And that directly increases the importance of the government, the politicians and the bureaucrats.

If farmers were to succeed, it would mean the failure of our politicians and the brand of politics practiced in this country since 1947 by the Left and the Right.

And that explains why the government is keen on a failed farm sector: the idea is to merely keep it on a life support system, allow it neither to die nor to bloom. And that ensures that India remains poor, while its politicians are rich.

Farmers wont buy Relience SEZ deal




PEN: The Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance group’s relief and rehabilitation package for those affected by the Maha Mumbai SEZ near Mumbai doesn’t seem to have evoked much response. According to government sources, land transactions have not shown any significant pick-up since the announcement of the package. The company also admits that it has acquired just around 200 acres.
Compare this with the total land requirement of 35,000 acres (13,000 hectares), of which 10,000 acres would come as part of the Cidco-promoted Navi Mumbai SEZ. The rest, 25,000 acres, are being acquired for the Maha Mumbai SEZ. To speed up land procurement, the company had announced a relief and rehabilitation package on February 19. The package offers three options. First, the company will allocate 12.5% of the original land holding as developed land to the legal landholder. The second option is a one-time payment of Rs 10 lakh per acre of land. The third option is a payment of Rs 5,000 a month for the lifetime. The package also offers employment to a member of the family, to be nominated by the landowner.
As late as Monday the Reliance arm, Mumbai Integrated SEZ, claimed that farmers have welcomed the package and are queuing up to offer their land. However, after visiting a dozen villages (of the 45 villages identified for the twin SEZs)), ET learnt that the ground reality was quite different. “We will not surrender even an inch of our land,” said Suvarna Sakharam Patil, Sarpanch of Sarade village.
She is upset over two reasons. One, the company was eyeing her prime farm land. Second, the price Reliance paying is a pittance. When pointed out that RIL is offering as much as Rs 10 lakh per acre, she shot back: “What’s the big deal? Cidco was offering Rs 5 crore for the same piece of land. RIL offer is nothing compared to that.” Septuagenarian Balkrishna Tukaram Mhatre of Koroli village, raised another point. “Why should we give our land so that someone can trade it? RIL will resell our land at a premium. We will not let this happen,” he said.
He ridiculed the company’s employment offer. “They are promising job to only one in the family. As of now, my whole family, including all the sons, their wives and kids, are making a living out of the land. We earn enough to feed all. What will happen to the family if only one is assured a job, that too with a salary of Rs 5,000 a month,” he asked.
Mr Mhatre also came down heavily on Maharashtra government’s, what he calls, “dubious role” in the whole affair. “Why should the state have a soft corner for one company? The Maharashtra government should walk out of this. We will deal directly with the company.”
Tukaram Gharat from Dhakati Jui village also wants the government to keep out of the affair. “The government says our land is non-cultivable. If that is the case the region should have faced a serious agrarian crisis like Vidarbha where thousands of farmers have committed suicides. Where is the crisis in our region? On the contrary, we are sitting on one of the most fertile stretches of land in the state. We will not let this land slip out of our hand,” he said.
When contacted, state government officials refused to go on record on the tricky issue. However, an official from the state revenue department said on conditions of anonymity that no significant land transaction has been recorded by the department after the announcement of the relief and rehabilitation package. The revenue department is the central depository of all land records in the state.
The RIL spokesperson, however, disagreed. “The response to our package has been encouraging,” he said. According to him, the company has acquired nearly 200 acres of land since February 19, the day it announced the package. “The March 11 Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samiti elections somewhat slowed down the process. We expect things to speed up after March 15,” he said.

IT SEZs results 35 % rise in land rises




It’s a real(ty) tale with a virtual plot. Even as real estate prices across the country have seen a southward dip in the last four to six months, land prices in and around IT and ITeS special economic zones (SEZ) are bucking the trend. In fact, this segment is now calling the shots and the big rush for IT SEZ projects across the country has resulted in a 25-35% rise in land prices in the past one year.
For those still waiting to tune into the SEZ story, formal approvals were given for 148 IT SEZs and in-principle approvals to about 75 such zones. And among the 63 SEZs notified so far, as many as 36 are in IT and ITeS sector. In Andhra Pradesh, for example, out of 14 SEZs notified so far, nine are for IT and ITeS projects.
In Karnataka, eight out of 11 are in this sector whereas in Tamil Nadu, it’s seven out of nine. Among the notified SEZs, only two happen to be in Madhya Pradesh, but both are in the IT sector. It is estimated that more than 300 such SEZs are in the pipeline in different cities around the country.
Explaining the reasons behind Realtors looking at development of IT-SEZ projects, P S Group director Pradip Kumar Chopra says, “Since real estate developers have the expertise and competence to undertake such large format developments, it makes business sense for them to undertake these developments as well.”
Rohtas Goel, CMD, Omaxe Group, feels that the IT/ITeS companies do not have the knowledge base or the expertise to undertake such developments. “These include amenities such as clubs, multiplexes, schools, food court, shopping malls, restaurants, residential-cum-commercial complex as well as an intelligent building, which only big and organised players can provide,” he says.
One reason for the sudden rush of activity in IT SEZs is that regulations like Urban Land Ceiling Act as well as land conversion rules are not applicable to any IT SEZ development. Again, the large and growing pool of skilled professionals has been a key driver of the rapid growth in the IT-ITeS sector. According to Nasscom, India has the largest pool of suitable offshore talent, accounting for 28% of the total suitable pool across all offshore destinations. It is unlikely that India will face a shortage of suitable talent pool for IT-ITeS in the future.
Even if one takes the opportunity cost, national statistics available with developers indicate that agriculture on one acre of land supports four people for nine months. Instant back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate 2.5 FSI means construction of over one lakh sq ft of IT space spread over one acre of land and can house more than 1,000 IT workers. It is also said every IT worker creates four additional jobs down the line, including some for caterers, drivers and support service

Protest march against sucides by farmers, SEZs

Madhur Tankha

Activists demand creation of a Zero Hunger Act

NEW DELHI: Members of Youth for Justice, Kisan Log Abhiyan and MCKS Food
for Hungry Foundation jointly staged a march at Jantar Mantar here on
Sunday protesting against the continuing farmers’ suicides.

Wearing masks, the protesters holding banners like “The Constitution
Guarantees Me Right to Life Yet Death Haunts Me All The Time” shouted
slogans against the United Progressive Alliance Government’s policies
that were leading to lack of livelihood for farmers across the country.
They called for a Zero Hunger Act.

Claiming that the Haryana Government had sent notices to farmers of
Rewari to hand over their agricultural land for Special Economic Zones,
Kisan Lok Abhiyan State president Dinesh Joshi said: “We don’t mind
giving barren land, but parting with fertile agricultural land for big
multi-national companies is quite unreasonable.”

Stating that he had received a notice from the State Government to
vacate his agricultural land, Lal Singh Yadav of Haryana said he grows
“bajra” and mustard in his 10 acre agricultural land but will now be
left with no option but to hand over his ancestral land to the
administration. “At least farmers should have the right to decide
whether they want to sell their land nor not. And the price paid to us
by the administration is pittance.”

Sharing their concerns, a number of Delhi University students under the
Youth for Justice banner marched with the farmers. Stating that they
interacted with farmers of Vidarbha, Youth for Justice representative
Kapil Mishra said the youth and the farmers had come on a common
platform to awaken the Government so that it comes out with a
farmer-friendly budget.

Demanding separate packages and waving off loans for farmers in all the
affected districts, Mr. Mishra said organic farming should be encouraged.

“Since 1997, over 25,000 farmers across the country have taken their own
lives. The worst affected places are Warangal, Amravati, Vidarbha,
Karimnagar and Nizamabad. Even though we are boasting of 8 per cent
economic growth, the grim fact is that our farmers are committing
suicide. This means our policy-makers need to change their approach
towards running the economy,” said Mr. Mishra.

Besides travelling to Vidarbha next week in March for a first hand
experience with the situation prevailing in the rural areas, Youth for
Justice members will visit Capital’s Connaught Place and Ansal Plaza
every Sunday to distribute pamphlets to make Generation X aware of the
farmers’ plight.


NHRC issues notice to centre on land acquisition act


New Delhi, Feb. 26 (PTI): The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to the Centre on a petition seeking amendment in the “out-dated” Land Acquisition Act 1894, which it alleged was being used “arbitrarily” against farmers to grab their land.

The petitioner P Pullarao, an economist from Andhra Pradesh, moved the Commission alleging that in the past three years many acres of land has been acquired under the Act, displacing over 10 million farmers across the country in the name of development.

“No explaination is being given by the state governments or officials. The land is taken away using the Act. Farmers are thrown away from their villages without ensuring them any proper rehabilitation,” he said.

Pointing out “flaws” in the current land acquisition procedure, he said, “the District Collector issues a notification of land acquisition. It is then followed by revenue officials giving notice of vacation from the property.”

While drawing the attention of the Commission to the various provisions under Special Economic Zones (SEZs) which does not allow any public hearing on the issue of land acquisitions, Pullarao said it amounts to human rights violation.

Terming the Section 3 (2) of Chapter II titled “Establishment of SEZ” as a “bully” act on the part of the government, Pullarao has sought intervention of the NHRC in the matter.

The section states that “any person who intends to set up a SEZ may after identifying the area make a proposal to the state government concerned for the purpose of setting up the SEZ”.

In Andhra Pradesh, alleged Pullarao, the officials had been grabbing the land by forcing the farmers to voluntarily accept the compensation whatever decided by them.

Seeking suspension of the land acquisition Act, the petitioner has urged the NHRC to direct the Ministry of Rural Development to amend it in a “sensitive manner.”

Taking cognisance of the complaint, the Commision has also issued notice to Andhra Pradesh to submit the factual report in the matter within six weeks.

The rights of displaced people


Dr Sandeep Pandey

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has acquired 340 acres of village common lands, 70 acres of temple lands from the Endowments Department and 500 acres from the local Gram Panchayat – China Mambattu of the Tada Mandal in Nellore District to set up a Special Economic Zone here. Some private industrialists have purchased another 100 acres of agricultural lands in the vicinity. 400 acres of the SEZ have being given to Apache to set up a shoe factory.
Three hamlets of the panchayat, N.M. Kandrika, China Mambattu and Peda Mambattu are being affected by this SEZ. There are weavers, shepards, barbers, washer men and women and Yanadi tribals living in these villages. The most vulnerable among these are the Yanadis because they do not have any land ownership making them ineligible to receive any kind of compensation in lieu of the displacement caused by the SEZ. The question of such communities and their livelihoods which are non farm based and dependent on natural resources and Community Property Resources is the most crucial one here.
Bandi Polamma, a member of the Yanadi community says that because of the land being sold they are losing their daily wages. The water bodies too are either being taken over by the company or are being polluted as a result of which fishing is becoming increasingly difficult as a livelihood option. Apache is setting up a fence which is making it difficult to access the forest which was a source for firewood. The tribals used to earn a part of their income by selling firewood. Hence the life and livelihood of this community is getting seriously affected due to the setting up of the shoe company here.
The local community facing displacement was promised jobs, education for their children, etc. However, it turns out that all promises were false. The displaced people have been left to fend to for themselves. Only two women have got sweeper’s job in the Apache shoe factory! The people feel let down and are in a public hearing organized in Nellore on 31st January, 2007 by Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union and Andhra Pradesh Matsyakarula Union they have expressed their intention to wage a struggle for their basic rights. Earlier a public hearing organized by the Government on 6th January turned out to be a sham as no people were allowed inside the hearing.
The people are demanding that every family displaced by the SEZ must be provided 2 acres of agricultural land with irrigation facility within the Panchayat limits, a housing site with low cost house built by the government, fishing nets worth Rs. 3000, one bicycle and a compensation of Rs. 10,000 per annum for the next 25 years.
At the same public hearing people from the Midderevu village of Muthukur Mandal of the same district also presented their woes. 1329.43 acres of land in three Panchayats, Krishnapatnam, Muthukur and Thamminapatnam is being acquired by the Government to set up Krishnapatnam Greenfield Port and Krishnapatnam Ultra Mega Power Project.
Midderevu village is next to Kandaleru creek and Bay of Bengal. Land along seashore is used for parking of boats, nets, catamarans, etc. People use common lands for grazing and firewood collection. They have also planted casurina in ten acres along the seashore. The village was hit by Tsunami and was only beginning to recover from the economic shock. In violation of the CRZ regulations, the villagers are being asked to cut the casurina plantation now. They are being asked to resettle at a distance of 7 km from the seashore and the local district collector has promised jobs for every youth.
180 families living in the village, including 20 Yanadi, mostly depend on fishing for livelihood. They are completely baffled by the idea of doing fishing from a distance of 7 kms. The fish move in groups and the colour of the sea is to be watched on a regular basis to determine when to begin the fishing operations. Parking of boats and gear would become a problem. In addition they would have to buy wood and fodder, imposing extra burden on their income. The people of Midderevu also face the dilemma of how to repay the Rs. 38 lakhs loan they had collectively borrowed from fish merchants in the post-Tsunami phase on the condition of supplying their catch.
People of Midderevu would not get any compensation because they do not own any agricultural land. Their traditional occupation has been fishing. But the existing legal framework doesn’t recognize fisher people’s right over the sea, for payment of compensation.
The people of Midderevu are determined in their resolve not to be displaced before the promises being made to them are fulfilled. They want that each family being displaced be given 2.5 acres of agricultural land, house constructed for them with a cost of Rs. 1 lakh, a compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs for forgoing fishing (rights) on the sea and adequate compensation for all plantations in the households and along the sea. Collectively they want repayment of Rs. 38 lakhs loan by the government on their behalf to the fish merchants, construction of fishing harbour for safe parking of boats and gear and provision of basic infrastructure like roads, drinking water, electricity, schools and community hall, etc, at the resettlement and rehabilitation site.
The demands being made by the people of China Mambattu and Midderevu are quite legitimate considering that most of the families may be forced to completely alter their lifestyles and livelihood options. The respective compensation package being demanded in the two cases will at least ensure that the families will have a one generation cushion to rehabilitate and resettle themselves. But since the authorities are not known to be very sympathetic to the people facing displacement in such cases, it is unlikely that the demand will be met easily. However, as increasingly more and more communities are awakening to their traditional rights under threat from modern development projects, in particular, and their human rights, in general, they are throwing up more resistance all over the country. The Government will ignore these democratic resistances and demands at its own peril.
Dr Sandeep Pandey

(Dr Sandeep Pandey is recepient of Dr Ramon Magsaysay Award for the year 2002, and is a reputed social activist leading National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and People’s Union for Human Rights (PUHR). He had co-founded Asha in 1991 in Berkeley California, after which he returned back to teach at India’s premier engineering institute (IIT Kanpur). He is presently actively engaged in strengthening people’s movements across the country, and can be reached at: ashaashram@yahoo.com)