Issue of land acquisition

The country’s wealth belongs to the people, not to the bourgeoisie

The Union Cabinet of the Bharitya Janata Party (BJP) -led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government passed an ordinance on 29th December 2014 to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013. Just two days later, on the 31st December, the President of India authorised the ordinance.

At this time, the bourgeoisie has put the BJP-led NDA in power, providing it with an opportunity to serve the bourgeoisie. Through the ordinance, the government has amended Section 10 of the 2013 Act to exempt land being acquired for certain sectors – five new ones – from the statutory Social Impact Evaluation (SIA). It has also amended the rules that require approval by 80% of the affected people and the ban on acquisition of fertile land.

According to the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, consent of 80% of affected population and SIA will not be required if land is to be acquired for the purposes of national security, defence, rural infrastructure including electrification, industrial corridors and housing for the poor. Even cultivable land can be acquired for these sectors. Public Private Partnership (PPP) schemes are also included in these.

Through the amendments brought about by this ordinance, 13 other related legislations which in one way or another relate to land acquisition and development of basic infrastructure will also be affected. These Acts include those relating to coal, mining, petroleum and minerals, railways, electricity, atomic energy, etc. In sum, the earlier requirements of consent of the affected population and SIA have been eliminated by this ordinance.

The erstwhile Congress – led UPA government used the pretext of 'public purpose', provided by the colonial Land Acquisition Act, 1894 to forcibly acquire large tracts of land in many parts of the country. This was done to advance the interests of the big bourgeoisie, Indian and foreign. The peasants and tribal people of these areas have militantly opposed the forcible land acquisition. These struggles were so militant that several agitating people as well as officials and armed security personnel have lost their lives in them. All this was becoming a big impediment to the programs and plans of the Indian and foreign big bourgeoisie. It was in these conditions that the UPA government had to amend the colonial Act of 1894 and bring in the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act in 2013 in order assuage the people's anger and to ensure this broad opposition of the peoples in various parts of the country did not become a problem for the rule of the bourgeoisie. It took several years to prepare this Act of 2013. Several committees were established and several drafts were written. Many governmental and non-governmental experts were consulted. There were heated arguments in many sessions of the Parliament. Various parties expressed their opposition to it in different ways. Finally, when the law was passed in the Parliament, the clauses of exemption from requirement of SIA, requirement of consent of 80% of the affected population and restrictions on acquiring cultivable land were included in it, which was presented as a victory for the people's movement.

Within just months of taking power in the Centre, the present BJP led government, made it clear that it would enable the loot of people's land and resources to increase the profits of Indian and foreign monopolies. Prime Minister Modi initiated the campaign of 'make in India' with much fanfare, through which Indian and foreign capitalists are being invited to invest in India, establish factories, manufacture products here and sell their products in India and abroad. Acquisition of adequate land at throw-away prices was necessary to give an impetus to this program of the big bourgeoisie. It was necessary for the government to remove all obstacles on this path whether from the opposition parties or from the people's movement. In order to implement the agenda of the bourgeoisie without delay, the present government bypassed the Parliamentary route where they would have to defend the indefensible in debates and took up the ordinance route instead.

The British colonial government needed mines, industry, rail transport for taking raw materials from one place to another; big factories, air transport, dams and bridges, etc. to carry out sustained and all-round plunder of enslaved India. The colonialists wanted to make huge profits by selling cheap commodities in the world market and in the markets in India. First of all they needed land for army and police forces for protecting their empire of plunder. The British rulers brought in the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 to establish their complete control over the land and natural resources of India. Through this law, the British usurped the power to deprive the tribal peoples of their natural and age-old rights over their hills, mountains and forests, to deprive the farmers of their natural rights over their fields and villagers of their natural right over the villages. The British government used the notion of 'public purpose' to justify the loot and plunder of the country.

After independence the Indian bourgeois class that became the new rulers had the same aim as that the colonial rulers – to increase their private profits and power through the accelerated exploitation of this vast land endowed with the natural resources and hardworking skilled people. In exactly the same manner as the colonialists, the state of the Indian bourgeoisie has also imposed the dominant right of its state over the vast land, rivers, forests, etc. and has retained the power to deprive people of their rights. In order to emerge as a global power, the Indian bourgeoisie too had to develop electric and water supply, factories, industries, transport and modern means of communication, nuclear plants, defence production, military bases, etc. All of these were included under the purview of 'public purpose' and 'national interest', although all of these primarily served the interest of the big bourgeoisie and not the interests of the dispossessed, displaced and deprived working masses. Thus, the colonial land acquisition law of 1894 served the bourgeoisie well because its outlook towards the resources of the country was no different from that of the colonialists.

The Indian bourgeoisie had become very powerful by the 90’s, thanks to their ruthless exploitation and plunder of the land and labour of the people. They could now dream of becoming a world-class power. However, they needed the best of technology, know-how and capital investments, for which they launched the era of globalisation through liberalisation and privatisation. To successfully carry out this program, they not only  needed to sell the public sector enterprises at throw-away prices but also to make huge tracts of land available cheaply in various parts of the country for which the state used its armed might. As time passed, it became clear to the people at large that the talk of 'public interest' was in fact a cover for the maximisation of profits of private capitalists, and that it was leading to the ruin of the affected people. As a result, the people’s movements against forcible acquisition of land intensified. The demand for changing the colonial land acquisition law of 1894 began to be voiced all over the country, forcing the UPA government to pass a new law for this in 2013as noted above. However, through the December 2014 Ordinance, the State has once again asserted that it is the agenda of the big capitalists that will be advanced and that working people will be deprived of their right using the force of the law.

The ordinance route that has been taken to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 shows that the bourgeois class is politically supreme and every government has to implement its interest. In actual fact, the Indian parliamentary democratic system, which is praised by the rulers and all its political parties, is only a smoke-screen to hide this truth. When the pretence of democracy does not advance the agenda of the bourgeoisie quickly enough the State ends this drama and openly imposes the will of the bourgeoisie through ordinances. This particular ordinance is not the first example of this. The Indian Constitution, which is said to be the mainstay of democracy and which the rulers want the people to revere, gives the President full right to issue ordinances bypassing Parliament and even dismiss the Parliament or State Assemblies, all in the name of 'national interest'.

On the one hand, there is indeed a need for land acquisition for enabling the economy to fulfil the needs of all the citizens and to raise their standard of living and for establishing various types of industry, projects and modern services. On the other hand, people who have been living for generations on their land and have been earning their livelihood through it, have a natural right over their fields, hills and mountains on which they are dependent. In the same way, people as a whole have a right over the entire natural resources. The State has no right to acquire land merely to serve the interest of increasing the profits of a handful of Indian and foreign capitalists. The aim of developing land and natural resources has to be to raise the standard of living of all working people and to ensure the well-being and security of the future generations and this is the only reason for which land should be acquired. The State must be made responsible to ensure this.

Workers and toilers will have to unite to establish their own rule by overthrowing the rule of the bourgeoisie and establish a state which will be duty-bound to discharge its responsibility towards the people of the country and not only towards a handful of capitalists.

Till a new law on land acquisitions can be prepared, which takes the interests of all affected people into account, all acquisition of agricultural land must be banned. The new act must ensure that fertile lands remain in the hands of those who cultivate them.

Mazdoor Ekta Lehar strongly condemns the forcible land acquisition in the interest of the monopoly bourgeoisie and calls upon the working class and all toilers to unite and advance the struggle to replace the bourgeois rule with our own rule. This is the primary condition for deploying the invaluable resources of our country and abundant labour and skill of our people in the service of the people.

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Feb 1-15 2015    Political-Economy    Rights    

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