On 17th May 2011, Navdanya held a Press Conference on the topic of Land grab and Land wars to call for an end to unjust land acquisition for private profits masked under the cloak of public purpose. Across the length and breadth of India, from Bhatta in Uttar Pradesh to Jagatsinghpur in Orissa to Jaitapur in Maharashtra, the Government has declared war on our farmers, our Annadetas in order to grab their fertile farmland. Their instrument is the colonial Land Acquisition Act of 1984, implemented and used by foreign rulers against Indian citizens.
Farmer leaders Kesari Singh Gujjar and Satpal Chaudary from Uttar Pradesh attended the Press Meet along with Kishan Bir Chaudary and fellow farmer leaders to provide a direct account of the atrocities taking place in UP: in the Greater Noida region, 28 lakh hectares of land have been acquired over the last few years, and 28 lakh hectares more are to be acquired in the next 2 years. Because of land grabs, over 10 lakh of UP youth finds itself unemployed in the face of rampant land speculation: land which is bought from farmers at Rs 300/square metre, is sold for Rs 1,30,000 and ultimately valued at over Rs 6 lakh for private profits.
In Bhatta Parsual, (UP) farmers have been protesting since January 17th against the unjust acquisition of about 6000 acres of land by infrastructure company Jaiprakash Associates to build luxury townships and sports cities in the garb of building the Yamuna Expressway. Farmer leaders estimate that against official figures of 4, the actual number of deaths is at least 70 in a situation where police terror and repression have been unleashed through bullets, fire and rapes on peaceful and unarmed people demanding justice and respect of their rights. Kishan Bir Chaudary rightfully asks “How much more blood will the Government take before it stops these land wars?”.
Similarly in Jaitapur, police opened fire on peaceful protestors demonstrating against the proposed Nuclear Power Park at Jaitapur, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra where one person died and about 8 were seriously injured on 18th of April 2011. The Jaitapur nuclear plant will be the biggest in the world to be built by the French company AREVA. After the Fukushima disaster the protest has intensified as has the governments stubbornness.
A similar situation is also brewing in Jagatsinghpur, Orissa, where 20 battalion are to be deployed to assist in the anti-constitutional land acquisition to protect the stake of India’s largest FDI – the POSCO Steel project. The government has set the target of destroying 40 betel farms a day to facilitate the land grab. The betel farms bring the farmers an earning of rupees 4 lakhs an acre. The Anti POSCO movement in its 5 years of peaceful protest has faced state violence numerous times and is now gearing up for another perhaps final, non-violent and democratic resistance.
While the Constitution recognizes the rights of the people and the Panchayats to democratically decide the issues of land and development, the Government is overlooking due-process and constitutional rights, behaving as the foreign rulers did, appropriating land through violence for the profits of corporations- Jaypee in UP for the Yamuna expressway, POSCO for Orissa and AREVA in Jaitapur.
The use of violence and destruction of livelihoods that the current trend is reflecting is destroying the country’s democratic fabric and is dangerous for the survival of the Indian nation state itself. These land wars have serious consequences for our democracy, our peace and our ecology, our food security and the rural livelihoods. The land wars must stop if India is to survive ecologically and democratically. Land is not about building concrete jungles as proof of your growth and development but is the progenitor of food and water, a basic for human survival. Considering that today India claims to be a booming economy and yet is unable feed more that 40% of its children is matter of national shame.
What India needs today is not a land grab policy through an amended colonial land acquisition act but a land conservation policy which conserves our vital eco-systems such as the fertile Gangetic plan and coastal regions for their ecological functions and contribution to food security. The proposed Amendment to the Land Acquisition Act will not stop the land grab and land wars. By replacing courts with a centralized authority it robs the farmers of access to the legal system which in many cases has stopped land grab. The Act is based on Private Public Partnerships which allow private corporations to hide behind the public face; as Kishan Bir Chaudary puts it, PPP actually stands for “Pijao, pijao, pijao”.
Handing over fertile land to private corporations who are becoming the new zamindars cannot be defined as public purpose. This definition is too loose and wide and it allows land grab for the Yamuna Expressway, the Jaitapur Nuclear plant, the Posco project. Creating multiple privatized super highways and expressways does not qualify as necessary infrastructure. The real infrastructure India needs is the ecological infrastructure for food security and water security. Burying our fertile food producing soils under concrete and factories is burying the country’s future. The country needs a paradigm shift. It needs a democratic process to replace the colonial hangover.
While the country democratically debates the future of land we call on the government to:-
- Freeze all land grab
- Stop all police action against farmers defending their land rights
- Shift the policy discussion from land acquisition to Land conservation for the country’s food and water security.
- Identify ecologically rich and fertile farmland as “No Go Areas” for land use change
For further information please contact:
A-60, Hauz Khas
New Delhi – 110 016
Website : www.navdanya.org
Phone : 91-11-26532561 / 26968077
Fax : 91-11-26856795