It is amazing but painful. Tribal ,poor and landless people have no say in India. Huge forest land as well as of poor farmers are being acquired forcibly for facilitating the industrial set-up by corporates, multi-nationals, industrialists and influential political classes Large number of adivasis are being uprooted from their homes and land in Orissa, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Chhatishgarh, Madhy Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand ,Bihar, Maharshtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka , Tamil Nadu etc for handing over the lands for industrial and mining purposes to multi-nationals, corporates like Korea-owned Posco, British-owned Vedanta , for mining and other industrial purposes..Trabal's betel vines and various crops farm land and houses in hundreds of acres and have been destroyed in the deep forest of Odisha by the Odisha government for handing over the lands to Posco and Vedanta. Similar situations are prevailing in various states.
More over, such forcible occupation of lands and forest areas are in violation of the provisions in the Constitution, laws and rules in India as well as international norms , laws and rules. Strangely, much-awaited. new bill for acquisition of lands-draft Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation (LARR) Bill is gathering dust for the last several years. This bill was supposed to replace the obsolete-Land Acquisition Act, 1984, enacted by the colonial British Raj. following a lot of discontent over land acquisition and rehabilitation.
A recent circular of the union government has dwelt a new blow in acquiring lands and tribal rights in India.The circular was adopted at a recent meeting convened by the prime minister Manmohahan Singh and attended by the Environment minister Jayanti Natrajan and Tribal Affairs minister V Kishore Chand Deo, " which decided that that , subject to (the) Forest Rights Act, there will not be requirement of consent to each of 'gram sabhas' through which such linear projects such as roads, canals, pipelines, transmission towers etc pass" The government announced recently that major infrastructures projects will be exempted for forest clearance from tribal communities living in forest. Such decisions undermine the importance of India's Forest Act. The Forest Act, implemented after much hue and cry for restoring forest rights to tribal, has been ignored by the union government surreptitiously to please multi-nationals in the name of setting up infrastructural facilities in India.Tribal, who have been given enough power for utilisation of their forest land under the Forest Act. Under new directive, originating from the PM secretariat; the power of 'gram sabha' has become meaningless. In accordance to the Act, the 'gram sabhas' of tribal has absolute rights in rejecting in building of roads, railways, transmission lines, canal system, pipeline or other projects that potentially violate their land rights.
This obnoxious directive, which would affect all traditional forest -dependent communities including those who have procured rights under FRA and those who are still struggling for its implementation in the areas, In 2009 itself, the ministry of foest and environment had made the consent of the affected forest communities for all projects that will destroy forest. Such thing happened in the wake of an attempt by the British mining Company Vedanta to clear swaths of forest in Odisha state belonging to the Dongaria tribe. Now the recent directive of the union government will definitely help Vadanta and Posco at least in Orissa.
Dr Swati Shresth of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment has said, " This is serious breach of trust and a huge step back in ensuring the dignity and survival of traditional forest-dwelling people across the country. Forests are going to be cleared to make way for a particular kind of economic development; it will adversely impact communities and environment."
In the Opinion of the popular British Daily, the Guardian; the 2006 Forest Act is a landmark piece of legislation recognising the rights forest dependent have over the landscape they have traditionally inhabited. It mandates that forest dwellers cannot be resettled unless their traditional rights have been recognised. It is seen as single mist important piece of legislation protecting and preserving the country's biodiversity and rights of tribal group. By no longer gaining the consent of communities, the government stands accused of effectively overturning key provisions of the Act.
However, the government rejects the claims that it is diluting rights in the name of streamlining big business, saying it will continue to enforce the provisions of the" Act " where there is significant impact on the lives and livelihoods." On the other hand Shresth further said, " The proposed changes will a enable land grabbing and violation of right of traditional forest dwellers and sends a clear message that rights granted under FRA are not inalienable, but subject to the whims of the government of the day." Such concerns were also expressed to the prime minister secretariat in a letter signed by a coalition of the international forest rights movements. The statement of the Movements said, " We believe that it is against the democratic principles to make centralised decisions about the extent of social impact worth considering while diverting forests over which individuals and\or village community may have "inalienable' forest rights vested through FRA. Overriding of such processes can lead to the danger of assuming that all rights can be monetised and negotiated"
Agitating activists are of the opinion that such free signal will allow industry to build roads or canal system for mining projects to transport extracted minerals to the refinery by exploiting tribal population. the only beneficiaries of the decision will be mining companies. This is about directive ,which will threaten the area's biodiversity. Interestingly " this is for GDP, not about the rights of India's tribal communities" said Sanjay Basu Mallick from All India Forum of Forest Movements. Apart from that it will also discredit India's status as the current chair of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and of the Nagoya protocol and the implementation of these international obligations on sustainable use and protection of biodiversity.
Sadly, although many "noble, and humane ' clauses in the proposed bill-draft Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation bill, awaiting for Parliament approval, in place of Land Acquisition Act, 1984,, a concentrated attempt is being made to dilute and make it more private-investor-friendly; there will be compromises in the consent, rehabilitation and compensation clauses provided in the original bill. The contradictory views within various ministries, there have been attempts to water-down the present draft, which is inadequate in itself, under the pressure from the industry. Strangely, the provision in the draft bill in respect of PP projects, the consent clause has been reduced from 80 percent to 70 percent and only the consent of of the landowners, not all land losers, has been stipulated as being required. This apart , there is move to dilute in the original draft about compensation and resettlement and rehabilitation were to be given to both land losers and livelihood losers.
Considering the maneuverings at the government level to help vested interests to uproot tribal and poor and small land-holders, constituting over 70 percent in India,, the government instead of taking strong and appropriate measures, it is creating more and more problems. Alas , there is no move from the government end to acquire land for dalits, tribal, poorshomeless for a roof on their heads. Over 80 percent families in India have no houses of their own even after India achieving independence over 60 years back.