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  Asia-Pacific
Displaced People in India Announce a Massive Demonstration
Large-Scale Protests Targeted at 2 Anti-People Acts
By Bobby Ramakant
Asia Correspondent
Students join in the general public against anit-government demonstrations in India. They are protesting against 2 anti-people acts.

Both The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act, 2007 and The Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill, 2007 are anti-people, asserts activists.

In the name of 'development' and 'economic growth' in India, rural and urban poor have been the worst hit, facing displacement and dispossession at an unprecedented scale. Several people's movements across the country have announced to stage a massive demonstration in New Delhi on April 28-30, 2008.

"Government is nothing more than a puppet of industrialists and capitalists, snatching all natural resources away from the people. On the other hand, for the multitudes-Dalits, Adivasis, agricultural workers, farmers, fish workers, artisans, forest dwellers- who have been facing the harsh reality of displacement and complete dispossession for years, there doesn't seem to be even the hope of rehabilitation now" said the frontline activist Medha Patkar.

"Be it in Nandigram or Jagatsinghpur, be it against uprooting people in the name of SEZs, mining or big dams or against the 'illegalisation' of urban poor, our country reverberates with voices of protest and struggle like never before. People are resisting the snatching away of the means of their lives and livelihood. They are resisting the theft and transfer of natural and common property resources into private hands for private profit. They are resisting the gross undermining of democracy and social justice that goes on in the name of development. It is in the midst of all this that the Central Government has brought forth two Bills — The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act, 2007 and The Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill, 2007, which were introduced purportedly to strike a balance between the need for land for development and other purposes and protecting the interests of the persons whose lands are statutorily acquired. However on the contrary these Bills sanction displacement and loot of more and more land from the people for the profit of corporations and private investors" asserts Medha.

The Land Acquisition Bill allows land to be forcefully acquired in favour of private companies and investors, thus including private purpose in the definition of 'public purpose.' It is more regressive and anti-people than even the original Colonial Act! While the government talks of protecting the rights of those whose lands are acquired, it is mere lip service. The resettlement and rehabilitation Bill doesn't even guarantee basics like land for land and alternative livelihood-based rehabilitation.

The issue of urban displacement has been completely side-stepped yet again.

Today the demand of people's struggle across the country is one - a decentralised development planning process which ensures 'development' that is truly people centric and bases itself firmly on the principles of democracy, social justice and equity. Since concerns regarding development planning, land acquisition and resettlement and rehabilitation are intrinsically linked with one another and cannot be addressed in isolation, people's movements and organisations have, for several years now, been demanding the enactment of a Comprehensive Legislation on Development Planning,

No enforced displacement, and Just rehabilitation. In fact a draft of the same has also been prepared based on 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments which, in the true spirit of democracy, vest gram sabhas, municipalities with the right to formulate district and metropolitan level development plans. Ignoring these demands, the Government is keen on pushing these two Bills that, instead of ensuring minimum and no enforced displacement, endorse displacement.

"There is no doubt that these anti-people legislations have been brought forth under the influence and for the benefit of big corporations and private industrial and capitalists interests. It is imperative that we, the people's movements and organisations, challenge and oppose this move. It is important that we, the rural and urban poor, those struggling for just rehabilitation and those who oppose forced displacement and destruction carried on in the name of 'development', join hands and raise our collective voices. We must question our elected representatives and bring them to understand and voice our positions on these issues. We must challenge the Central government and compel them to heed" said Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay awardee and national convener of National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM).

Representatives of many people's movements are staging a massive demonstration in New Delhi on 28-30 April 2008. Prominent among those are National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers, Nadi Ghati Morcha, National Hawkers Federation, SEZ Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, Narmada Bachao Andolan, National Alliance of People's Movements, Pennurumai Iyyakam, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Kalahandi Mahila Samiti, Orissa, Jan Sangharsh Vahini, Vishthapan Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangam and Asha Parivar.



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Bobby Ramakant, who serves as The Seoul Times' Asia correspondent, is a member of NATT, Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals, and edits Weekly MONiTOR series, reporting violations of tobacco control policies as a senior public health and development journalist. He writes for newspapers in 11 countries and can be reached at bobbyramakant@yahoo.com)

 

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