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Volume XLIV, No.51

On Development and Loss of Livelihood

Statement on Land Expropriation to Promote ‘Development’

Tuesday 24 April 2007

We are deeply anguished at the large scale displacement and loss of livelihood being caused through widespread land acquisition all over India by the State Governments with the active encouragement of the Centre in the name of promoting ‘development’.

In this context we are highly concerned over the grave situation that has developed on the issue of the setting up of a Tata car factory on large tracts of first class agricultural land at Singur in Hooghly district of West Bengal. We are convinced that the Tatas’ adamant attitude to have the car factory at Singur and Singur alone has created this grave situation. But at the same time the State Government too cannot absolve itself of blame since it has abjectly surrendered to the Tatas’ unjust demand without taking into consideration the plight of the common people—the peasants, poor farmers and landless agricultural labourers—who will be directly affected due to eviction from the land they till for their livelihood. The fact is that the farmers, despite the massive show of strength and police highhanded-ness on the part of the State administration, are resisting this takeover—even though this resistance is being suppressed by influential sections of the media on account of the vested interest at work.

It is no one’s case that industrial units should not be set up in West Bengal. But this cannot and must not happen by displacing large sections of the common people. That is unacceptable. Why can’t the Tatas or other industrial houses go to backward regions like Bankura or Purulia to set up their plants? Why can’t the State Government take over the factories that are lying idle nearby and hand these over to the industrial houses for the purpose? It is strange that the West Bengal Government, run by the Left Front for almost 30 years, is kowtowing to the Tatas’ obduracy and using force against the common people to propitiate big business.

It is time the State Government and the Left parties in power in West Bengal reverse their policy in this regard and make it clear that industry cannot be developed in the State by large scale displacement of common people, especially the poor farmers and agriculturists. The State Government must withdraw its highhanded repressive measures forthwith and resort to transparency without bending over backwards to placate the industrial houses.

We condemn equally strongly similar expropriation of land by other State governments in collusion with Posco and Tatas in Orissa; Reliance in Maha-rashtra, UP and Haryana; Tatas, Jindals and Mittals in Jharkhand; and several such cases in Chhattisgarh. We also deprecate the Central Govrnment’s policies which encourage such expropriation of land extinguishing the people’s livelihood and conferring exorbitant benefits on big business. In this connection we firmly oppose the Central SEZ Act.

We demand a national moratorium on all acquisition and displacement till a national consensus is arrived at.

We also demand that an independent commission of eminent persons (including experts, representatives of affected persons, social activists etc.) be set up to recommend, within the period of one year, a national policy for overhauling the land acquisition, SEZ and related Acts and for providing an effective blueprint to protect the interests and concerns of all the affected persons. The enforcement of this policy should be the necessary pre-condition for any land acquisition and displacement.

Signatories :
Rabi Ray (Former Speaker, Lok Sabha), Cuttack; Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer (Former Judge, Supreme Court), Kochi; Prof Rajni Kothari (Former Member, Planning Commission), New Delhi; Aruna Roy (Former Member, National Advisory Council, UPA Government), Beawar; Prof Muchkund Dubey (Former Foreign Secretary), New Delhi; D. Bandyopadhyay (Former Commissioner, Land Reforms, West Bengal, and Former Secretary, Rural Development, Government of India), Kolkata; S. P. Shukla (Former Member, Planning Commission), New Delhi; S. R. Sankaran (Former Secretary, Rural Development Government of India), Hyderabad; K. B. Saxena (Former Secretary, Rural Development, Government of India), New Delhi; K. Subramanian (Former Director General of Police, Tripura), New Delhi; K. Balagopal (Human Rights Activist and Advocate), Hyderabad; Dr Bela Bhatia (Sociologist), New Delhi; E.A.S. Sarma (Former Secretary, Energy, Government of India), Vishakhapatnam; Prof Arun Kumar (Economist, Jawaharlal Nehru University), New Delhi; Prof Chaman Lal (President, Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Union), New Delhi; Vijay Pratap (Social Activist), New Delhi; Suhas Borker (Independent Documentary Filmmaker and Social Activist), New Delhi; Sumit Chakravartty (Journalist), New Delhi.

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