Farmers, homeowners, landed, landless, urban, rural, large sections of Gujarat’s urban and rural marginalised populations are likely to be victims of land grab if Presidential assent is given to the Bill
What the Modi government failed to do in early 2015, bring in a fresh law that in the name of making ‘land acquisition’ easier actually snatched away the original owner –be it the peasant, small farmer or tenants –right to have a say in whether or not the land should be acquired—the Gujarat Government, known for its infamous ‘Gujarat Model’ under Narendra Modi is attempting to do through the “Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2016” (RFCTLARR, 2016), just recently passed, in the Assembly.
On April 1, 2016, deliberately on a day when the Opposition had been suspended from the House, the Government of Gujarat (GOG), passed the “Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2016”. A copy of the Bill, can be read here.
This Bill, if it gets the required assent, snatches away the right of the cultivator to have his or her say on whether or not their land can be acquired. This Bill also snatches away the social audit process and consent clauses painstakingly put in by the UPA Government’s Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR 2013). In order to become an Act, will require the sanction of the Governor as well as the President of India and people’s movements and farmers organisations are now gearing up to oppose the Bill before these Constitutional authorities.
The Modi government, flush with a sweeping electoral victory in May 2014 had, in what was seen to be the direct influence of crony capitalists, sought to overturn the 2013 law (in which enactment process, the then ruling UPA I and entire Opposition including the Bharatiya Janata Party-BJP had painstakingly participated) through the LARR Ordinance of 2014. An infuriated and united Opposition had geared up to unitedly oppose this blatant snatching away of people’s rights. What the LARR Ordinance of 2014 had proposed to do but could not, the GoG Bill is attempting in Gujarat. With a few changes, the tone and tenor of the Gujarat LARR Bill is almost the same as the LARR Ordinance 2014.
The amendments were cleverly introduced in the (Gujarat) Assembly on a day when the opposition had been suspended from the House…remove nearly all the land in Gujarat from the ambit of consent, SIA (social audit), and R&R (Relief and Rehabilitation) requirements
Essentially, Gujarat’s 2016 Bill dilutes the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Act (2013) brought in by the UPA government, by discarding the provisions for social impact assessment and consent clauses for acquisition of land for “public purposes” and “industrial corridors.” The Bill has also done away with social impact assessment for projects related to defence and social infrastructure like building public roads, canals and schools and affordable houses and also for acquisition of land for industrial corridors. In the statement of objects and reasons of the Bill, the State government has contended that after the central Act on land acquisition, the process has become lengthy and difficult so it needs to dilute the stringent provisions.
The amendments in the Bill are a clear statement of the intentions of the government about its priorities and its leanings, if any are required. After 2013, certain industrialists and a particular corporate lobby seen to be close to the Modi government had made it clear that it was ‘impatient and dissatisfied’ with the LARR 2013 and that it needed action, and fast. Though Parliament's Upper House (Rajya Sabha) in this instance, protected the views of the political Opposition and stopped the Modi juggernaut in its tracks, the home state of the prime minister, GoG has complied.
The GoG and the ruling party which, since the December 2015 losses in the local government elections, has been harping on its rural and farmer-centric policies and programmes, has, with this one act