Dissent over Land Bill
The opposition of the non-BJP States to the amendment to the land acquisition Bill was underscored by their decision to stay away from the recent Niti Aayog’s governing council meeting chaired by Prime Minister rendra Modi. The chief ministers of the Congress-run States of the Northeast stayed away also from the Northeast chief ministers meeting though some, like Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, had time for Sonia Gandhi’s iftar party. The BJP appears to be reconciled to the fact that the proposed legislation would be blocked in the monsoon session of Parliament that is due to commence from July 21. The BJP also decided to keep the controversial Bill in cold storage until the Bihar Assembly elections.
Among the chief ministers of the Northeast who attended the two meetings were Chief Minister Manik Sarkar of Tripura, T. B. Zeliang of galand and Pawan Kumar Chamling of Sikkim. Mizoram was represented by its Fince Minister. Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar’s firm opposition to the proposed amendment to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 ected by the UPA government was clearly hinged on two major issues. One was the fact that Tripura had very little land available for cultivation and the State could not afford the luxury of converting any more agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. He said all the efforts of the State had been initiated to make the State self-reliant with limited resources. “This is all the more necessary in consideration of the geographic remoteness and long circuitous connectivity of the State with the mainland of the country,” he added. However, his main objection to the amendment to the existing Act appears to be directed more at the proposed exemption of five categories of land use from prior-informed consent. According to Manik Sarkar, the amendment bid broadens the scope of acquisition and exempts all the projects with larger take-over of land from seeking consent of the affected people. “We are of the view that land acquisition should be based on prior-informed consent of affected persons with the least displacement and for a democratically established public purpose... Consultation and approval from panchayats and graam sabhas for public purpose, rehabilitation and resettlement, social impact assessment, etc., must be ensured. There is no exemption from seeking prior-informed consent of the affected people as prescribed in the principal Act,” he added. The tion would do well to heed the words of Manik Sarkar who is Chief Minister of a corruption-free State of the Union. He also rules a State that, despite its location and poorer accessibility, is one of the most developed States of the Northeast with a growth rate of 7.7 per cent, second only to Sikkim with a growth rate of 13.5 per cent. He is understandably concerned about what the proposed amendment to the land acquisition Bill will do to the reckless sale of agricultural land in the me of development as the corporate world sees it. If the amendment goes through, the day may not be far off when we shall have to be importing most of our needs of food grains, vegetables, poultry and dairy products. And if the proposed expansion of the industrial corridor takes place, Manik Sarkar is of the view that this will open up vast tracts of agricultural land for potential acquisition. This, he feels, can only be aimed to help the land mafia and the real estate speculators, while displacing millions of people and denying them their main source of livelihood. It is not difficult to envision what will then happen to the food security of the tion. As a tion, we might be better off heeding the words of caution of a leader like Manik Sarkar who not only runs a corruption-free State, but who has also demonstrated how insurgency and terrorism can be elimited at a much lower cost than elsewhere. But will the corporate world let this happen?