Jharkhand state government passed a new land acquisition law by voice vote, in the state Assembly on August 12, overriding objections of MLAs of opposition parties. The new law, known as the Jharkhand Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Act-2017, has amended certain provisions of the earlier land acquisition law, to facilitate land acquisition for the big monopoly capitalists to carry out their mining, power generation and other projects. Several of these projects have not taken off, due to mass protests opposing the land acquisition.
The new law eliminates the need for social impact assessments in cases of land being acquired for what may be characterized as “public purpose”. The new law also does away with the requirement (which is prasent in the central law) of consent of 70% of the landowners for such projects. Only in scheduled areas, consent of gram sabhas would be compulsory, in tune with the provisions of Panchayati Raj Extension to Scheduled Areas Act.
Khunti SP, 80 officials held hostage 60km from capital
Tribal villagers held as many as 80 officials of Khunti administration hostage for 12 hours. The district superintendent of police (SP), deputy superintendent of police (DSP), a couple of executive magistrates and at least 50 armed CRPF jawans were among those detained overnight. The tribals were demanding the state government should submit to the will of the gram sabhas, besides a ban on outsiders entering their villages. This was in response to the new Land Acquisition Bill passed on 12th August.
Though the government had earlier withdrawn the amendment to the Tenancy Bills in the face of protests, the latest legislation has once sparked the mistrust of the villagers towards the government.
Earlier, on 23rd November, 2016, the state government had amended two laws governing land use – the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and the Santhal Pargana Act – to enable cultivable lands to be sold for non-agricultural purposes. These amended laws vest enormous powers in the state to take over tribal lands and agricultural lands for any purpose or activity it may specify as “public purpose”.
The BJP government of Jharkhand has been going all out to welcome Indian and foreign multinationals to plunder the land, labour and rich mineral resources of the state. Over 200 MOU's with Indian and foreign capitalists were signed at the Momentum Jharkhand Investors' Summit 2017 held on February 16-17.
The Government of Jharkhand has announced that it has 20,00,000 acres of land available for prospective investors. This is a message that the government is ready to sell off the land and natural resources of the people of the state, to enable the big monopoly capitalist houses to reap maximum profits.
Various big Indian and foreign monopoly capitalists have their sights set on the rich coal, iron and other mineral deposits in Jharkhand. They want the government to remove all roadblocks to land acquisition for their projects.
When the Narendra Modi government came to power at the centre in 2014, it had tried to amend the Land Acquisition Act of 2013, but was unable to push through the amendments due to mass opposition. The states have now been given a free hand to amend their land acquisition laws in favour of the agenda of the big monopoly capitalists. Several states, including Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Telangana, have already enacted similar laws.
Mass protests against forcible land acquisition by the state have been going on in Jharkhand at various places such as Hazaribagh, Barkagao, Ramgarh, etc. particularly over the past year. The protestors are demanding fair compensation for the land they have lost as well as rehabilitation of those displaced. In many cases police have brutally attacked and fired upon the protestors, causing several deaths and grave injuries. These protest actions have stalled many of the big mining and power projects.
To divert the struggle of the people of the state and break their unity, the Jharkhand government simultaneously passed on August 12, the Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Act-2017, in the name of preventing forced religious conversion. This law, which mandates various levels of rigorous punishment – including imprisonment and heavy penalties – nefariously aims to turn people of different religious communities against one another, in order to smash their united resistance to the anti-people offensive of the government in favour of the big capitalist monopoly houses.
People inhabiting, cultivating and drawing their livelihood from the land that is sought to be acquired, are opposing the land acquisition because they know from past experience that the aim of the acquisition of their lands is not to improve their well-being, not to build schools and hospitals and other resources for them, but to ensure maximum profits for the capitalists who are eyeing their lands and the wealth beneath. They fear, rightly, that their lives will be ruined as a consequence. The whole history of “compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement” by the state shows that it has always been cruelly indifferent towards ensuring the security of livelihood of the affected people.
The Communist Ghadar Party upholds the position that there is a need for a new land law, based on the principle of harmonising the interests of different users of the land with one another and with the general interest of society. Land use must be regulated according to a social plan that takes into consideration the needs of agriculture, industry, services, residential and other social needs. But for such a plan to be implemented, the orientation of the economy has to be changed – from the present orientation of ensuring maximum profits for the big capitalists – to that of fulfilling the ever-growing needs of the rural and urban population.