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Various civil society organisations have come together to oppose the recent President’s assent granted to the amendments made in the Andhra Pradesh Land Acquisition Amendment Bill.

Claiming the bill to be anti-people, a joint statement drafted by various groups and representatives of people’s movements accused the Andhra Pradesh government of diluting the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR), 2013 introduced by the previous Congress government.

“This amendment is an insult to people who fought hard to secure progressive provisions in the LARR 2013, it weakens people’s power to challenge illegal and unjust forced acquisition of land, and empowers the state and corporations to infringe upon people’s rights over natural resources” read the statement.

The government had held that the after the bifurcation of the state, it is in urgent need of more land and that 2013 Act posed a major hurdle in this direction. To make land acquisitions more easy, the government made various amendments which includes not making inquiries before Collectors pass an award for acquiring land after taking consent of the interested person and exemption of certain projects termed vital to national security, defence, irrigation and other projects can be exempted from the requirement of Chapter – II of Act 30 of 2013.

The statement has further accused these amendments of emboldening the state efforts of coercion and intimidation to acquire farmlands. Warning that such dilutions in farmer and workers friendly laws will prove costly to the people, the joint endorsement said that tenant cultivators, women farmers, fisher people, landless Dalits and forest-dwelling Adivasis especially in scheduled areas would be the worst-affected if the large portions of fertile land.

The 46 organisations together blamed the competition amongst states vying for better rankings in the Ease of Doing Business Rankings (promoted by the World Bank) for promoting more investments by reducing the power of people-friendly provisions of various laws and policies.

The full text of the joint statement is reproduced below:

We the people’s movements and Civil Society Organisations from across India condemn the Presidential assent to the recent amendment Bill passed by the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly, severely diluting provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR), 2013. This amendment is an insult to people who fought hard to secure progressive provisions in the LARR 2013, it weakens people’s power to challenge illegal and unjust forced acquisition of land, and empowers the state and corporations to infringe upon people’s rights over natural resources.

The amendment opens the doors to all kinds of projects violating the purpose of public purpose. If the provisions of Chapter II and Chapter III of LARR Act, namely determination of Social Impact Assessment and Public Purpose, special Provisions to safeguard food security along with the consent of 70% landowners are circumvented, the very goal of the Act would be defeated. The amendment empowers the District Collector to pass an award for acquiring land after taking consent of the interested person without making an enquiry.

In the Amravati Capital City project in Andhra Pradesh, this amendment will only embolden the efforts of the state in going ahead with the project, which involves coercion and intimidation in acquiring farmland despite pending cases, injunctions by courts and people’s protests. This is an attempt by the state to legitimise the illegal and unjust actions, and we strongly condemn it. As is being widely perceived, the inability of the state to acquire lands through its questionable ‘land pooling’ scheme in the case of Amaravati, in fact, triggered the proposal to amend the 2013 Act.

We also reckon that this amendment is in line with the directions of the Doing Business Report by the World Bank, where it recommends the dilution of land acquisition procedure and other regulatory ‘bottlenecks’ for enhanced investments. India’s rush to improve its ranking on the Ease of Doing Business, on the behest of such international financial institutions at the cost of such laws and policies which are proactive of farmers, workers and the marginalised communities will prove to be too costly to the people.

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank [AIIB] has already approved lending to the Govt. of AP for five projects and further, the Amaravati Capital City Project, and Andhra Pradesh 24×7 – Power For All projects are being co-financed with World Bank. Farmers affected by the land-pooling scheme in the new capital have already raised questions on the AIIB and World Bank co-funded project and had to take up their grievances with the complaint mechanism of World Bank in the absence of compliance mechanisms and policies of AIIB. It is most unfortunate that states are vying with each other in this ranking and diluting protective laws, while no state is concerned about the interests of the communities that would be irreversibly jeopardised with such policy decisions.

Whether in Amaravati or elsewhere in the country, the worst-affected due to diversion of large swathes of fertile farmlands to corporate entities, non-farm purposes etc. would be tenant cultivators, women farmers, fisher people, forest-dwelling Adivasis especially in scheduled areas and landless Dalits, on a massive scale, whose rights and interests the State and the President has an obligation to protect.

We urge the state governments not to tamper with the provisions of the LARR 2013 and demand all political parties, including the BJP which was part of the passage of the 2013 Act, to ensure that the original provisions in the Act are retained and withdraw the amendments immediately.

Endorsed by:

• National Alliance of People’s Movements
• All India Union of Forest Working People(AIUFWP)
• Mines Minerals and People
• Samata
• Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha
• Narmada Bachao Andolan
• INSAF
• Karavali Karnataka Janabhivriddhi Vedike
• Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh
• Matu Jan Sangathan, Uttarakhand
• Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Mumbai
• Machchhimar Adhikar Sangarsh Sangathan, Gujarat
• Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy
• Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG), Tamil Nadu
• Environics Trust, New Delhi
• Focus on the Global South
• Centre for Financial Accountability, New Delhi
• Environment Support Group, Karnataka
• The Research Collective, New Delhi
• Delhi Solidarity Group, New Delhi
• Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee, Johar, Jharkhand
• Coastal Women’s Movement, Kerala
• Dynamic Action, Kerala
• Himdhara, Himachal Pradesh
• Indigenous Perspectives, Manipur
• North East Peoples Alliance
• Bhumi Adhikar Andolan
• Sarvhara Jan Andolan
• Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti
• Adivasi Moolnivasi Astitva Raksha Manch
• Kisan Shangharsh Samiti
• Bhumiputra Bachao Andolan
• Lokshakti Abhiyan
• Jan Sangharsh Vahini
• Bargi Bandh Visthapit Avam Prabhavit Sangh Madhya Pradesh
• Chutka Parmanu Pariyojana Sangharsh Samiti, Madhya Pradesh
• Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV)
• Human Rights Forum (HRF)
• Dalit Bahujan Front (DBF)
• Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruttidarula Union (APVVU)
• Forum For Better Vishaka
• Samalochana
• Andhra Pradesh Tenant Farmers Association
• Adivasi Sankshema Parishat, Andhra Pradesh
• National Fishworkers Forum
• Manthan Adhyayan Kendra

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