The Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation & Resettlement Bill 2011 is expected to be approved by theCabinet in the last week of August by its new name - The Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement and Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition (RCRRTLA) Bill 2012. The tabling of the Bill in Parliament is reported to have been deferred to give more time to the members of the Cabinet to review the Bill. In particular, the Minister for Rural Development, Jairam Ramesh, was reported to have sought time to consult with the Minister of Commerce, Anand Sharma, with respect to the implications of the Bill for SEZs and other special manufacturing zones.
The LARR Bill of 2011 was tabled in Parliament in September 2011 and soon after, it was referred to a Standing Committee. The Standing Committee submitted its report and recommendations to the Parliament on May 31, 2012. The government has to consider these recommendations, accept or reject them and table the amended Bill in Parliament.
One of the key recommendations of the Standing Committee was that the government should not be acquiring land for companies in the private and the PPP sector, under the guise of "public purpose". This has been the demand of a majority of the people across the country.
However, the government is reportedly rejecting this recommendation of the Standing Committee. Successive governments have stuck to this stand because this is what is in the interests of the bourgeoisie. Minister Jairam Ramesh has clearly enunciated the stand of the government at this point – the state must intervene on behalf of the capitalists. Minister Anand Sharma has endorsed this. According to him, government’s role cannot be confined to public purpose!
Following this information that the government has rejected the recommendation of the Committee, there has been a huge uproar and mass opposition across India. People from Narmada, Koel Karo, Singur, Nandigram, Sonbhadra, Chindwara, Bhavnagarm, Kalinga Nagar, Kashipur, Raigarh, Srikakulam and mining areas in central India, Koodamkulam, Jaitapur, Haripur, and Gorakhpur and many more, assembled in Delhi to express their opposition to the stand of the government on this key recommendations of the Standing Committee. The people’s opposition to land acquisition by the government is based on their own experience. The rapacious use of Land Acquisition Act 1894 by the government to secure land for ‘development’ projects has caused over 100 million people to be displaced from their land, livelihoods and homes. In just 5 years 2000-05, more than 17 lakh hectares of agricultural land has been diverted for non-agricultural use. Promises of compensation have been betrayed, and measures to rehabilitate the displaced have remained empty words. This is why the people are demanding, “…that the government has to first declare about the land already acquired, used and the fate of those who lost their livelihood. There can be no talk about new land acquisitions unless we talk of the historical injustices”
The Land Acquisition Act 1894, which is the legislation being applied till date, vested the then colonial state with the power of Eminent Domain - a power by which the state enjoys "sovereign control over all property in a state, with the right of expropriation". Post 1947, the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 has conferred upon the Central and State governments this power to acquire land "for public purposes and for Companies and for determining the amount of compensation to be made on account of such acquisition". Amendments in 1962 and 1984 to the said Act also made it very clear that the government can continue to acquire land on behalf of companies. This has been the stand of the Indian bourgeoisie right through and the rejection of the recommendation of the Standing Committee's recommendation on the matter is one more step in that direction. It is expected that the new Act will ease acquisition for some “national manufacturing” and “investment zones” and the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor.
It is clear that any amendment to the colonial Act or even a new Bill is only in name. It will have the same orientation; that of making land easily available at very little cost to capitalist monopolies at the expense of the right to livelihood of thousands who will be affected. The larger social priority of adequate agricultural land for growing food for the people is left in the shade.
By renaming the Bill, it is as if the government is pretending that it recognizes the right to compensation of those affected. Whatever the name, the people are going by their own experience of so-called rehabilitation and compensation. In any case, the basic issue remains–the government is acquiring land for the capitalist monopolies, under the guise that it is for public purpose, at the expense of the interests of the vast majority. The people are very clear about this and any attempt to gloss over this will be met with militant opposition.