What is the Central Government’s Ordinance on Land Acquisition Act 2013?
During the campaign for the general elections of Loksabha, the present ruling party has promised the people that they will bring “achchhe din” (better times) for the country. It’s a fact that farmers suicide still continue to take place. It is unfortunate that even after 68 long years of Independence, farmers have to commit suicides out of adverse financial situations. The ordinance brought by the Central Government to amend the Land Acquisition 2013 will worsen the situation further. It may be remembered that the present Land Acquisition Act (2013) has been brought after 118 long years when the incidences of violence occurred in places like Singur, Maan, etc out of protest of farmers for the land acquisition. It transpires clearly that incidence of such violence shall re-occur because of the new amendments brought by an ordinance.
It was expected that the new government will act pro-farmers and provide them some relief. However, this ordinance adequately clarifies that this government is an anti-farmer government and it wants to promote crony capitalism at the cost of farmers and their land.
In the The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 (referred as LARR Act for short), there was a provision to seek a prior consent of at least 70 per cent people of the local area before acquiring land for projects. This ordinance has terminated this procedure which means that the government will now be able to acquire any land at its will and whims. This is completely against the democratic procedures.
Also, the LARR Act was equipped with provision to conduct a public hearing as a part of Social Impact Assessment (SIA) before acquiring the land deciding on any project. This provision has been quashed now. Now since no SIA is required, there is no question of any public hearing. Democracy is all about discussions and deliberations which this government is denying. This will deprive the far4mers from their lawful rights.
The LARR act provided that in case a land acquired for a specific purpose remains unused for a period of five years, the land should be transferred back to the original farmer forthwith. However, the new ordinance has diluted this provision to an unacceptable and illogical extent.
The said Act has offered some special concessions to the projects which are in national interest and in public interest. Now through this ordinance, private hospitals and private schools are also included in the list of such projects. Private hospitals charge exorbitant fees not affordable to a common man and the private schools are also very costly for a common man. The government must clarify as to why it wants the private hospitals and private schools to get this undue advantage and favor?
In view of the food security of the country, the LARR Act had a provision that the fertile land having the potential of two or more crops in a year should not be acquired. This provision has been quashed now. Our food security relies on the crop production which we take from fertile lands. The sufficient food cannot be availed without fertile lands. Now through this ordinance, even the irrigated lands can be acquired easily by the capitalists. It is obvious that the government wishes to bring achchhe din only to a few capitalists and not to the farmers.
Gram sabhas are equally important to Loksabha and Vidhan sabhas. Gram sabha elects the representatives of Loksabha and Legislative assembly. So it is obvious that Gram sabha is the mother of Loksabha and Legislative assembly. Gram Sabha is sovereign. It is not elected but it elects the members of Loksabha (House of people) and legislative assembly. The resources such as water, land and forest; belonging to a village are supposed to be the assets of Gram sabha and therefore central government cannot decide its disposal without consulting the Gram Sabha.
Since 1857 to 1947, for around 90 long years, thousands of the martyrs have sacrificed their life for freedom. They were dreaming that exit of the British and Home Rule will bring a substantial change to make India a democratic nation. The British left India in 1947 but the country is yet to get the real democracy. The question is whether we will let their sacrifice go in vain or we are ready to sacrifice to establish the democratic means of governance. Let us rise and be ready for any sacrifice which our country demands at this point of time.
K. B. Alias Anna Hazare