KISAN MAHA PANCHAYAT CELEBRATES FACT THAT GOVT. CAME UNDER PRESSURE FROM FARMERS & DID NOT TABLE LAND ACQUISITION BILL IN RAJYA SABHA
New Delhi, March 21, 2015: After three days of patient vigil on Parliament Street through a Kisan Maha Panchayat, thousands of farmers affiliated with All India Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements led by Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), dispersed this evening celebrating the fact that the government was brought under pressure not to table the Land Acquisition Amendments Bill in Rajya Sabha when the Parliament closed for a Recess. It is the victory of farmers’ struggle all over India and of this Kisan Maha Panchayat, they said. Given the fact that the Ordinance is about to lapse and the government might attempt to get the Ordinance re-promulgated, they shifted their attention to the President of India. This evening, a delegation went to Rashtrapati Bhawan and submitted a memorandum to the President of India urging him not to give his assent to any Ordinance on the subject. They also warned the government that they will occupy the Parliament Street again and intensify the agitation across the country, if it attempts to bring back an anti-farmer, pro-industry legislation once the Parliament Recess gets over.
“The Ordinance and the Bill passed in the Lok Sabha are not acceptable to us. In the name of development and reforms, this Ordinance would seriously jeopardise food and livelihood security of the country. We presented our objections and concerns to the President with regard to the amendments that the government is attempting – this is all the more surprising and disappointing given that it was BJP which argued for long term land lease and not land acquisition when the 2013 Bill was being debated in the Parliament. We also reminded the President about his own cautionary words against the Ordinance route being adopted by the government. We warn the government that we will intensify our struggle if the government does not give up its anti-farmer policies and continues to facilitate land grab. Further, farmers all over the country will continue resisting any forcible and unjustifiable land acquisition as before. It is time that government urgently puts out a comprehensive white paper on how much land has been acquired so far, what is the current status of utilization and ownership of the same, status of compensation paid as well as status of resettlement and rehabilitation”, said Rakesh Tikait, Spokesperson, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU).
Leaders of the farmer unions also expressed their deep condolences on the death of 13 of their colleagues who had set off to join the Kisan Maha Panchayat in Delhi, in an accident. Senior Office Bearers will leave to meet with the bereaved families.
TEXT OF THE MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED TO THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA:
To: March 21, 2015
Shri Pranab Mukherjee,
Hon’ble President of India.
Sub: Urging you not to give your assent to any Ordinance or Amendments Bill related to Land Acquisition – reg.
Namaste! Sir, as you might be kindly aware, thousands of farmers have been staying on Parliament Street from March 18th 2015 morning protesting the anti-farmer policies of the government, in a Kisan Maha Panchayat that drew farmers from 13 states of India into the capital. Protestors, who have gathered under the banner of All India Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements (AICCFM), which is not affiliated to any political party but is an independent movement led by India’s largest farm union – Bhartiya Kisan Union –, have resolved that they will not move from Parliament Street until their concerns are addressed. However, the government has not made any moves to initiate a dialogue with them, subjecting these Anna Daatas to great hardships. This in itself belies the current government’s claims of having farmers’ best interests at heart.
We are particularly concerned about the Land Acquisition Ordinance and the Amendments Bill that got passed in Lok Sabha. Sir, this is to appeal to your good self not to give your assent to any Ordinance or Bill that does not protect our farmers’ interest, our nation’s food sovereignty and our citizens’ livelihood security. As you are kindly aware, after decades of intense struggles against unjust land acquisition all over the country based on a colonial law, this country’s citizens and lawmakers have been able to create an Act that at least tries to give a somewhat level playing field between the ones whose land is being acquired, and the one acquiring in the form of “The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013”. You would kindly remember that it was BJP who argued that there should be no land acquisition in the first instance, but only long term land lease, when the 2013 Bill was being debated in the Parliament.
We believe that from this law, (1) there should be no dilution of clauses related to prior informed consent from affected people – any exemption to this is all the more unacceptable where private entities’ involvement is also present. (2) Nor should there be any dilution of impact assessment mechanisms which could lead to exploration related to appropriate alternatives where feasible in each case. In fact, it is apparent that only such an impact assessment will facilitate any fair and just rehabilitation package. It is not acceptable that the central government thinks that states can take these processes up if they deem it necessary – we believe that this should be mandatory and should be embedded into the law. These are the only mechanisms in the law by which unfair and unjustifiable land acquisition can be stopped. (3) We are opposed to the current approach to “industrial corridors” where land to the extent of upto one kilometer on both sides of highways and railways can be acquired. This is absolutely unjustifiable and would seriously jeopardise this nation’s food and livelihood security. (4) With regard to compensation, circle rates are not acceptable since it is a grossly unfair valuation mechanism and it is an open secret in the country that circle rates are severely suppressed. Where land has to be absolutely acquired for a genuine development purpose that too with prior informed consent, the compensation has to be based on market values and a mechanism has to be evolved for assessing such value. (5) We are also opposed to multi-cropped land being acquired. (6) We also believe that accountability clauses fixed on government officials in the 2013 Act have to be kept in tact, to protect the interests of ordinary citizens.
Sir, you have already cautioned the government on the Ordinance route being adopted way back in January 2015 itself. We urge you not to sign on any Ordinance related to Land Acquisition now since this is the very first time that the nation is debating this issue so intensely both inside and outside the Parliament, and there cannot be unhealthy shortcuts taken by the government to such democratic processes.
We would also like to draw your attention to the other issues that we are raising as we sit in protest in the Kisan Maha Panchayat, which are long pending and burning issues that are life and death questions for millions of farmers in the country. These relate to: ensuring fair and remunerative prices to farm produce by adopting the Swaminathan Commission recommendation of at least 50% margins over cost of cultivation/production in price-fixing formulae; ensuring effective procurement and market Con and thwarting any moves at dismantling our procurement and public distribution system (as is being recommended by the Shantakumar High Level Committee on Restructuring the FCI); putting into place appropriate and adequate disaster insurance and relief mechanisms for all farmers and crops in the country since the current systems are grossly inadequate; guaranteeing minimum living incomes to all farm households including through the establishment of a Farm Income Commission; ensuring that no open air field trials of GMOs take place in the country and that no further commercialization or import of GMOs/GM food takes place, particularly in the face of ever-emerging scientific evidence on the risks of this irreversible, living technology and increasing rejection world over; removing agriculture from trade agreements like WTO and Free Trade Agreements since this is a matter of food sovereignty and livelihood security; ensuring that sugarcane farmers are paid their long-pending dues immediately. We are attaching a copy of our Memorandum to the Prime Minister.
We request you to kindly intervene urgently on the above, and we also urge you to assure us that no Ordinance related to land acquisition will be signed by you. Thank you.
Naresh Tikait, President, BKU
Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, President, BKU Punjab
Rakesh Tikait, National Spokesperson, BKU
Yudhvir Singh, Convenor, AICCFM