The new Land Acquisition Bill
There has been great protest across the whole country over the land issue in India. Rajagopal (Etka Parishad former leader) came to speak and bring us up to date with the ongoing opposition to the Land Acquisition Bill which if approved by parliament will disappear with supportive initiatives for small farmers and roll back years of positive achievements for the poor and landless in India. We have previously reported on the historic agreement achieved in 2012 on land reform between the Indian Government and the civil society movement, Jan Satyagraha, led by Ekta Parishad.
As it was: The agreement included a land reform policy and provisions for homestead land for landless families. During 2013 the government was led by the Congress Party which brought in a new Land Acquisition Act in 2012 and this gave farmers and tribal communities greater rights to resist land grab for government’s development projects, mines. factories, roads etc. Curiously, when in opposition the BJP supported that Act.
Photo by: Simon Williams
Recent protest in Delhi about the Land Acquisition Bill
The Bill: However now that the BJP is in power it has introduced a new Land Acquisition Bill which if approved by parliament will roll back all the perceived gains of the previous Act. And indeed BJP is devolving powers to States and encouraging the sale of natural resources where the profit from those sales will be kept by the States. These changes in policy have caused a storm of protest from farmers, poor rural people, dalits and indigenous peoples especially as farming is the biggest employer in India and such changes will disappear with livelihoods at great numbers.
Opportunities: Two weeks before the forum Rajagopal had led a march to Delhi and was joined there by many others including members of the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party. The latter recently won 67 out of 70 government seats at elections in Delhi on account of an anti-corruption campaign. Although Rajagopal has stepped down from leading Etka he is still engaged in dialogue with the government, opposition parties and groups. He feels that the way forward for Etka Parishad is to form alliances with farmers’ groups and others. Historically EP has always represented farm laborers and the most marginalised members of the rural community rather than land owners. But the shift will be made easier by Rajagopal positive reputation and peaceful discourse which will facilitate conversations. His message is one for a three-pronged approach involving not only struggle and dialogue but also creative land-use programmes such as the one ASSEFA had introduced.
The situation is very fluid at the moment. Please visit Etka Parishad’s website www.ektaparishad.com
By Mary Homes (AVI Trustee)
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