Hon. Narendra Modi ji,
Prime Minister of India
South Block, Raisina Hill,
New Delhi - 110011
Headline: The ordinance of the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 is totally anti-farmer
Following a prolonged struggle of farmers, the erstwhile government amended the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 which was promulgated by the British in 2013 and brought in the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. The Act of 2013 contained some provisions protecting interests of farmers. However, the new government came out with an ordinance dated December 31, 2014 which amended the provisions of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 that protected interests of farmers. Since these amendments were unjust to farmers, many Non-Government Organisations, farmer’s organisations and other associations and organisations from all over the country hit the streets to agitate against them and protests began across the nation. That forced the government promise the people that if the law is against the interests of the farmers, it will be amended. Later on April 3, 2015, the government issued a new ordinance. That ordinance did not make provisions to protect interests of the farmers. The protests which have begun across the nations still continue as the new ordinance too is against the interest of farmers. With the government reiterating time and again that the ordinance is in the interest of the farmers, people are confused as to whether the law protects interests of farmers or harms them. An attempt is sought to be made here to clear the picture for benefit of the people at large.
In the prevailing circumstances, the law is against the interests of farmers because of following reasons:
1. Amendments made by ordinance: The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 promulgated on September 27, 2013 uses the term Private Company whereas the ordinance brought out on April 3, 2015 provides for use of the term Private entity. Why such an amendment was made?
Government’s intentions: The reason behind the amendment made by the government is that the term Private Company falls under the preview of the Companies Act, 1956. As a result, the government cannot allot any land to any company as per its wishes. When the government realized this and since it wanted to allot lands to Private Entities at large scale, it incorporated the term Private Entity. This intention is clear from the amendment. These Private Entities include Single Owner Firm, Partnership Firm, Companies, and Corporations, Voluntary Organizations or any other organizations formed under the prevailing law. The Government could not have allotted lands to all these entities due to the use of the term Private Company in Act of 2013. Therefore, to facilitate a few people close to those to the powers-that-be, the term Private Company in the Act of 2013 was replaced with the term Private Entity. As per the ordinance of April 2, 2015, the government has powers to acquire farmers’ lands and allot them to Private Entities for projects such as schools, colleges and hotels. As a result, thousands of acres of land belonging to poor farmers can be acquired, leaving these farmers landless. Thus the law is likely to come handy for the influential people and their organizations. Such a decision is against interests of farmers. Does the government want this amendment to facilitate organization of people close to it and workers of ruling party? What is the reason for such an amendment?
2. Following provisions were added to the Section 2, subsection 2 of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 through the amendment. “The land acquisition made for projects and objectives mentioned in Section 10 A will be excluded as per the first condition under this Subsection.”
This provision made after Section 2, subsection 1 of the Act excluded the lands acquisitioned for projects mentioned under Section 10 A were excluded from the condition of acquiring prior approval of 80 per cent of land owners.
Due to these amendments, the government is now able to acquire lands of farmers without their approval and allot them to private entities as per its wishes. This law encroaches upon rights of the farmer. Such a law is harmful to democratic process and unjust to farmers.
Taking away the lands from farmers who have owned them for years forcefully without their consent and allotting them to industrialists or private entities clearly shows that this government is heading towards dictatorship from democracy.
Lakhs of people laid down their lives in 90 years from 1857 to 1947 to oust the unjust British and attain freedom for the country, to bring in democracy here. This law shatters the dreams of these martyrs. The amendment made in the law by the government raises the question as to whether the supreme sacrifice of these martyrs was a waste.
Our country became a Republic on January 26, 1950. Citizens became owners of the country. Democracy is the government of the people, for the people by the people. Therefore the government acquiring the lands of farmers without obtaining their consent is anti-democratic. The farmer is the original owner of the land. If the government starts taking away lands without the owners’ consents, what would be the difference between such a government and the British rule? That’s why the Act of 2013 provided that land cannot be acquired without obtaining prior consent of farmers. We believe if the government amends this provision to acquire lands without obtaining prior consent, it would be unjust to the farmers. The insertion of provision after section 2, subsection 2 of the Act excludes lands acquisitioned for following purposes mentioned under section 10 A from the condition of obtaining prior consent of 80 per cent land owners.
A. Projects of importance for the protection of India and any part of India as well as national security including projects for preparedness of defense forces and manufacturing of requirements of defense.
B. Base infrastructure projects in rural areas including power supply.
C. Projects to provide housing for poor and affordable housing.
D. Industrial Zones of governments and their industrial organizations (acquisition of up to 1 km land along planned railway lines and roads).
E. All projects for basic amenities and social facilities including Public-Private Partnership where land is owned by government.
Thus, the government can acquire lands without consent of farmers and allot them to private entities and industrialists. This law encroaches upon rights of farmers. This law is anti-democratic. Taking away farmers’ lands without their consents and allotting them to industrialist’s shows transformation of government from democratic one to dictatorial. Therefore it must be explained how this law serves interest of farmers.
I. Projects of importance for the protection of India and any part of India as well as national security including projects for preparedness of defense forces and manufacturing of requirements of defense.
If private entities are involved in defence manufacturing, they may misuse the defence material and equipment. That may even endanger internal security. Therefore the intention of ensuring security of India or any part of India cannot be achieved. Under such circumstances, acquiring farmers’ lands without their consents and allotting them to profit making companies does injustice to them instead of protecting their rights.
Moreover if private entities are included in defence manufacture, these private entities may be lured by enemy states and join hands with them. Therefore, reconsideration of general private entities in the law for defence manufacture is needed.
II. Base infrastructure projects in rural areas including power supply
The definition of base infrastructure projects in this law is vast in this law. Here the term used is only base infrastructure projects. It does not clarify definition of basic infrastructure. The law does not spell out which industries are covered under it. Therefore many industrialists, private entities may start any project of their desire in the name of basic infrastructure projects and farmers land will be acquired for them at large scale. This would be unjust to farmers.
III. Projects to provide housing for poor and affordable housing
The law states affordable housing but its definition is not clear. What is the guarantee that builders, land mafia will not misuse the provision for such projects? Many such incidents are already happening in many cities. It shows the design of the government of taking away farmers lands without consent and giving them to builders. The government must study and work out plan to ensure that land mafia does not benefit out of such policies.
IV. Industrial Zones of governments and their industrial organizations (acquisition of up to 1 km land along planned railway lines and roads)
The amendments in the law are harmful to environment and democracy. Our country has a total length of 62,000 km railway lines, total length of 92,000 km national highways and total length of 1,32,000 km state highways. Therefore estimating how much land can be acquired is difficult.
Post-independence, tree plantation has been done on either sides. Cores of rupees have been spent for growing trees along the national highways. All these trees are endangered due to this amendment. If these trees are hacked, it would be a hazard for environment. On one hand, we are increasing industrial areas where lakhs of tonnes of fuel like petrol, diesel, kerosene and coal is being burnt. The emission of carbon di oxide is a health hazard. The environment is degrading and temperatures are going up causing ecological imbalance. Besides, acquisition of lakhs of acres of land without obtaining farmers’ consent is anti-democratic. Clearly, this government does not protest interests of farmers. It favours only industrialists and organisations close to the people in rule.
V. All projects for basic amenities and social facilities including Public-Private Partnership where land is owned by government.
Before issuing ordinance, the government concerned must at least consider the required space to decide scope of land acquisition. As per the law, the government concerned must survey barren land, waste land etc. and maintain a record.
The amendments in the law are ambiguous. They do not spell out which projects are Public-Private Partnership projects. There is no clarity about even which projects are basic amenities projects and which social facilities projects are. Acquiring lands of farmers for such projects which are excluded from social impact assessment study is totally anti-farmer. Any law must be clear on this. If there is no clarity in law, it will be interpreted in different ways and farmers will get affected. Therefore the government must clarify on each of these aspects. The government is now empowered to provide lands for such projects to private entities and industrialists without consent of farmers. Therefore this law encroaches upon rights of the farmers. It is harmful to democracy. It is not clear how this law is beneficial to farmers. If the government claims this law is beneficial to farmers, it must elaborate and explain. The government also claims carrying out surveys of barren lands and waste lands is misleading people. Why all this is being done?
Therefore the citizens and we had demanded that all lands in the country be surveyed and classified in grades like 1/2/3/4/5/6. There must be law prohibiting allotment of lands in class 1/2/3/4 for industries and lands in class 5/6 can only be allotted to industrial sector. That will increase agricultural produce as well as industrial manufacture, thereby helping development of the nation. The government’s attempt to acquire lands producing more than two crops is anti-farmer. That would decrease agriculture produce and the possibility of we facing food shortage cannot be ruled out.
3. In section 3, subsection j, sub subsection I:
A. The terms “Companies Act, 1956” will be replaced by “Companies Act, 2013”
B. Following section would be added after subsection Y:
“YY: Private entities means any institute other than government institute of industry which includes single owner firms, partnership firms, company, corporation, nonprofit organization or any other organization formed under any existing law.
This shows by giving effect to Companies Act, 2013, the government is trying to include more and more organisations in the acquisition process. In Public Private Partnership, the government can allot projects without consent. This makes it clear that this decision has been taken to protect interests of industries and private organisations.
4. Adding new chapter III-A
Following chapter will be added to the law after chapter III
Provisions in Chapter II and Chapter II will not be applicable to certain projects.
(Powers of government concerned to exclude certain projects)
10A – Considering the public interest, the government concerned can exclude any projects from the scope of applicability of provisions made under Chapter II and III of this Act.
5. Amendments in Part 87
Following amendments will be done to Part 87:
87. In case of commission of such offence under this Act, if the offence is committed by the person in the service of the central government or state government, or by person who was in service of central government or state government, the court will take cognisance of such offence only if the government gives prior sanction as per provisions made under section 19 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
This amended part 87 and provision in it is totally anti-farmers.
If an aggrieved farmer wants to file case against someone who is or has been in the service of the central government or state government, the court will not be able to take its cognisance without prior sanction of the government concerned. How is it possible to obtain sanction of the person against whom the complaint is to be filed? In land acquisition process, the District Collector is the main officer taking decision. How the complainant concerned can file a complaint against him? This decision is anti-democracy.
6. Amendments in part 101:
In section 101, the term “For period of five years” shall be replaced by the term “longest period between period fixed for installation of the project or a maximum of five years.”
This change in the duration is anti-farmer. Similarly, it ensures that the acquired lands of farmers remain with the government, industries for maximum period. The period must be five years and no more. If project does not start during the period, the acquired land must be returned to the land owner or his successors.
7. Amendments in section 113
In section 113, sub section 1:
A) The term “Provisions in this part” shall be replaced by the term “Provisions of this Act.”
B) In the conditions, the term “For period of two years” be replaced by the term “for period of five years”.
By replacing the term “Provisions in this part” shall be replaced by the term “Provisions of this Act”, the government has increased its powers under the Act. In case of disputes pertaining to land acquisition, the farmer will have to wait for five years. The period of two years for the reason is more appropriate. Therefore this amendment too is anti-farmer.
Though the government claims that the law is in the interest of farmers, the examples cited above show how the Act does injustice to farmers. In case the ordinance is converted into a law, generations of farmers will suffer losses. Similarly, it will impact the food grain production in the country. It will also have effects on environment as a result of which the farmers will be forced to face hazards like droughts and unseasonal rains. Therefore the agitation against the amendments in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 is not against any party or individual. It is for the issues concerning the farmers, society, state and nation. Therefore we request the government to study the law in depth and promulgate a law that will protect interests of farmers.
One side, the government may be claiming that the Ordinance is pro-farmer, however, the above examples show that the Land Acquisition Act is completely anti-farmer. If the Ordinance realizes into an Act, the livelihood of generation of farmers would be destroyed. It will also have an adverse effect on the agricultural production. If this Act is implemented then, along with the farmers, the people at large would also be disappointed with the government. This Act would also have an adverse effect on environment as it will affect the ecological balance and result in drought in some areas and unseasonal rains in other areas thus affecting the farmer’s produce. Hence, the campaign against the Land Acquisition Act is not against a particular political party or an individual but it is in the interest and benefit of every individual, state and the nation and we have made an attempt to bring in transparency in order to bring out injustice to the farmer in the amendments to the Land Acquisition Act. In case, there is any shortcoming in our view, we request you to drop us a letter and let us know your objections to our stand. In case, there is no shortcoming, we request the government to reconsider the amendments and make them pro-farmer.
Every now & then the government is emphasizing that the Land acquisition Ordinance is in the interests of the farmers, but the above provisions shows that it is clearly anti-farmer, Therefore we have studied the ordinance seriously & raised above said points, In such situation it is necessary to clarify in front of the citizens, the governments stand of stating that the ordinance is in the interests of the farmers or the points raised by us are true. We expect the governments’ opinion in this regard by 25 April.
K. B. Alias Anna Hazare