Gram Sabha Divas & Bhumi Haq Satyagraha before August 31st
Proposed Legislations Land Acquisition Act, Food Security Bill, Seeds Bill, Pesticide Management Bill and Biotechnology Act of India are anti-citizens
Amidst heavy rains and scorching heat and worsening political climate, thousands of adivasis, farmers, labourers, forest dwellers, fish workers, hawkers, small traders, urban and rural poor from across fifteen states and over a hundred grass root movements across India stayed put at Jantar Mantar for the past three days, challenging the ‘aam aadmi ki sarkaar’ and demanded their right to life and development as also immediate end to the historical injustices inflicted upon the nature based, marginalized and disadvantaged communities.
From Assam to Gujarat and Himachal to Karnataka, India’s ‘aam janta’ rocked the national capital with a singular demand for a Comprehensive Development Planning Act, with inviolable decision making rights to the Gram Sabhas And Basti Sabhas. There was unanimity among people that although, decades of struggle has resulted in the Rural Development Ministry, accepting some of the significant demands of people’s movements, nonetheless, the new Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Bill, 2011 fails to address the core concerns flagged off by the struggling masses for years.
Some of the major concerns that remain are: abuse of the concept of ‘public purpose’, unreasonable minimum stipulation of 100 acres land for applicability of R&R, no guarantee of compulsory and time-bound land and livelihood based rehabilitation etc. The very approach to consider urbanization and industrialization as ‘inevitable’, but not social justice and equity as necessary is deeply disturbing and unacceptable. It is also widely felt that there is an imminent need for a complete halt to acquisition and diversion of farmland across the country (just multi-cropped irrigated land) or at least to the bare minimum, where inevitable for a real public purpose.
A delegation of National Alliance of People's Movement, ToxicsWatch Alliance, Bank Information Centre and senior Sangharsh leaders met Dr Murali Manohar Joshi, Chairman, Public Accounts Committee at his residence on 5th August to demand legislative oversight over international financial institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank Group and the Asian Development Bank through Parliament, State Assemblies and Councils and Zila Parishads and Panchayats. The delegation demanded that the Executive Director who represents Government of India in the World Bank should be made accountable to the Parliament and State Legislatures. Currently, Parliament does not supervise and keep a watch over funds, loans and grants that come from IFIs for structural adjustments. In the year 2009-2010, Rs 1248 crores came from IFIs for structural adjustment. In the past 10 years, India paid over 1000 crore rupees to the World Bank and ADB alone as commitment charge. Parliament has not demanded answers from the government regarding this. Although currently there are some 104 active project loans from the Bank amounting to $21 billion in loans, these are no under legislative scrutiny.
A delegation of senior Sangharsh leaders including Medha Patkar, Ashok Chowdhury, Vimalbhai, Dr. Sunilam, Anand Mazgaonkar and others shall meet Mr. Montek Singh Alhuwalia and other members of the Planning Commission later in the afternoon today. Alongside informing the Commission about the ground realities of defective ‘development’ models being pushed by it in virtual every sector, be it urban or rural development, energy, health, education, housing, PDS etc. the team shall also impress upon the Commission the ‘inevitability’ for recognizing the primacy and role of the Gram Sabhas / Basti Sabhas in the entire planning process, which must infact be the thrust of the XII Five Year Plan.
Mr. Singh had infact written to the Chief Secretaries of all the states before the XI Plan, that Gram sabha plans should be the basis for all development planning and called for such plans, but that never happened and the XI Plan was pushed, without this. This ‘disaster in planning’ should not be repeated once again. By inviting only a few NGOs and selected activists / researchers, the Govt. is doing enormous disservice to the people. Gram sabha are the direct democratic units, and as constitutional bodies, above the Planning Commission. This bottom-up approach must be reflected in the new Bill as well, which much move towards development planning and not acquisition of land and R&R alone. Sangharsh shall also present the alternative paradigm in urban housing, water, energy and other sectors, which must ensure equity and justice, beyond addressing climate change alone.
Earlier in the day, more than a thousand people marched upto to the Parliament Street, with banners and buntings, screaming slogans ‘Lok Sabha ke Upar Gram Sabha aur Basti Sabha’. Braving the police and the barricades, the gathering reflected the nation’s mood today: of anger and anguish against increasing inequality, injustices and corruption. As a mark of protest to the government’s weak anti-corruption law, the people broke up 10 pot-heads representing corruption in virtually every sphere of socio-economic life; such as education, rationing, health, forest rights, access to natural resources, livelihood and NREGA, corruption from the Panchayat to the Parliament; Janpad to the Judiciary. The present government draft does not cover the actual corruption and atrocities faced by the poor and downtrodden day in and day out and the Government must fulfill basic needs and ensure basic rights, without corruption, the women and men said. A Sankalp (Resolve) against corruption was also taken that the struggle for a true ‘Janta ka Lokpal’ Bill shall continue.
A delegation comprising Kavitha Srivastava, Clifton Rozario, Sr. Celia, Subhash Lomte, Kailash Awasya, and others met the Union Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, Mr. K.V. Thomas on 5th August afternoon and conveyed the collective concern on the Government’s proposed ‘Food Security Bill’ and demanded immediate universalization of the Public Distribution System and rejection of the ‘cash transfers’ approach. Campaigners of the Right to Food Campaign including Biraj Patnaik and Madhuri Krishnaswamy also spoke at the Dharna today, demanding a strong pro-poor and pro-people Food Security Bill.
Displaced by dams and canals, threatened by thermal and nuclear plants, evicted from urban bastis and hawking spaces, coastal development and tousirm projects, removed from forest lands; the real India posed tough questions and demanded justice. Tens of toiling women and men, both from villages and cities across India demanded a fair share and rights in return for their hard work entitlements to various schemes such as housing, rations, pensions etc. not as schemes but as non-negotiable rights. There was also a strong demand for effective implementation of the Unorganized Sector Workers Act.
Over the past two days, various delegations also met Environment Minister, Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan, Social Justice Minister, Mr. Mukul Wasnik, Rural Development Minister, Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Tribal Affairs Minister, K.C Deo, Urban Development Minister, Mr. Kamal Nath, amongst others and strongly placed before them the demand for a comprehensive development planning act (instead of piecemeal legislation) that would also link up the various functions these Ministers are presently performing. Sangharsh also demanded that the Rural Development Ministry call for a National and regional consultations on the Bills for receiving maximum feedback to the proposed draft.
The people shall return back to their states today evening, with a resolve to continue and intensify their struggle. In various states, Gram / Basti Sabha Divas and Bhumi Haq Satyagraha shall be observed in the coming weeks and resolutions passed demanding a comprehensive legislation and an end to displacement. Movements shall also hold consultations at various places, disseminate the Bill further and solicit widest possible response before the Bill is introduced in the Parliament. As people themselves rightly put it, the Government should minimize displacement and maximize development, and since it has failed to do so over the past 60 years, it is time for the State to give the Gram Sabhas and Basti Sabhas a real chance ‘develop’ and sustain their own lives.
Sangharsh is a process comprising of various people movements and organisations working against anti- people policies and working towards a just and egalitarian society.
Akhil Gogoi – Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Assam ; Arundhati Dhuru, Sandeep Pandey, J P Singh, Manesh Gupta – NAPM, UP ; Ashok Choudhary, Roma, Munnilal – National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers ; Bhupender Singh Rawat, Nanu Prasad – Jan Sangharsh Vahini & NAPM-Delhi ; Bilas Bhongade – Gosi Khurd Prakalp Grasht Sangharsh Samiti & NAPM – Maharashtra ; Chitranjan Singh – INSAF ; Dayamani Barla – Adivasi Moolwasi Asthitva Raksha Manch, Jharkhand ; Dr. Sunilam, Adv. Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, MP ; Gabriela Dietrich, Geeta Ramakrishnan – Pennuruimai Iyyakam & NAPM-Tamil Nadu ; Gautam Bandyopadhyaya – Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh ; Guman Singh, K Upmanyu – Him Niti Abhiyan, Himachal Pradesh ; Rajnish Gambhir, Ramchandra Rana – Tharu Adivasi Mahila Kisan Manch & NFFPFW, Lakhimpur Khiri, UP ; Manju Gardia – Nawa Chhattisgarh Mahila Sangathan & PSA - Chhattisgarh ; Mata Dayal, Rani – Birsa Munda Bhu Adhikar Manch & NFFPFW-MP ; Medha Patkar - Narmada Bachao Andolan & National Alliance of People's Movements ; Prafulla Samantara – Loksakti Abhiyan & NAPM Odisha ; P Chennaiah, Ajay Kumar, Ramakrishna Raju, Sarasvathy Kavula – APVVU and NAPM Andhra Pradesh ; Rajendra Ravi – NAPM, Delhi ; Shanta Bhattacharya, Rajkumari Bhuyian – Kaimur Kshetra Mahila Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti & NFFPFW, UP ; Shaktiman Ghosh – National Hawkers Federation ; Simpreet Singh – Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan & NAPM-Mumbai ; Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union, NAPM – Karnataka ; Sunita Rani, Anita Kapoor – National Domestic Workers’ Union & NAPM, Delhi ; Ulka Mahajan, Suniti S R, Prasad Bhagwe – SEZ Virodhi Manch & NAPM – Maharashtra ; Vimalbhai – Matu Jan Sangathan & NAPM-Uttarakhand; Niketan Palkar, Tata Dharangrasth Sangharsh Samithi; Subhash Lomte – National Campaign Committee for Rural Workers; Janaklal Thakur, Chattisgarsh Mukti Morcha
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