GUWAHATI, Aug 25 – The Land Acquisition Bill, 2011, in its present form, will harm the indigenous peoples of the NE region by putting them at the risk of becoming landless and finally emerging as rural proletariats. The Bill is violative also of the United Nations charters on human rights and rights of the indigenous peoples.
These observations were made by the speakers at a day-long consultative meeting on the Bill here today. City-based North Eastern Social Research Centre (NESRC) organised the function at the Uzanbazar Swahid Nyas Bhawan.
Addressing the first session, NESRC director Dr Walter Fernandes said that the main form of land ownership in the NE region is community-based. But the Indian lawmakers have failed to recognise this form of land ownership.
This very approach of the lawmakers has resulted in alienation of the Tripura tribals from their ancestral land. In the neighbouring State, the land law does not recognise the community ownership of land and this has been done to resettle the refugees in the initial days of the post-Independence era, and later, to resettle the migrants.
In Assam also, the law recognises the individual ownership of land, even as only one-third of the State’s people have proper land records. Only in Nagaland and Mizoram, the traditional ownership of the communities over their land is recognised. But the 1964 Land Acquisition Act of Nagaland made land acquisition for development purposes easier.
The argument that industrialization is needed for solving the unemployment problem and for that purpose land acquisition is a must, does not hold any water. For, to provide employment to the about 40 lakh unemployed people of the region, it is estimated that an investment of about Rs 8 lakh crore would be required and that sum is not available for the purpose, Dr Fernandes said.
Moreover, he said, all studies carried out in this connection show that the average employment against the acquired agricultural land is only two persons per acre. Besides, children of the 65 per cent of the people displaced due to acquisition of their land, work as child labour, he said.
Prof Udayan Misra, former Head of the Department of English, Dibrugarh University, said that the Bill must be seen as a part of the policies of the neo-liberalisation and the state's withdrawal from the social sector.
The Bill has deliberately left the definition of ‘public purpose’ mentioned in it, vague only to help the private industrialists. It is trying to give the idea that agricultural activities are non-remunerative. But the fact remains that the state is withdrawing from the agricultural and social sectors as a part of the Government policy designed to help the private industrialists, said Prof Misra.
Dr RC Barpatragohain, in his presidential remarks, readout a recent Supreme Court observation on the ‘development paradigm’ imposed on the people. In this observation, the Supreme Court has said, interalia, – “…Neither the policy makers nor the elite in India, who turn a blind eye to the gross and inhuman suffering of the displaced and the dispossessed, provide any credible answers. Worse still, they ignore historical evidence which indicates that a development paradigm depending largely on the plunder and loot of the natural resources more often than not leads to failure of the State; and that on its way to such a fate, countless millions would have been condemned to lives of great misery and hopelessness.”
He also referred to several United Nations Organisation charters on human rights and indigenous peoples’ rights in this connection, maintaining that these declarations are binding on the Indian Govt.
The function was also addressed by Debosmita Ghosh, Prof Bhupen Sarma of the OKD Institute of Social Change and Development, Dr Melvil Pereira of the NESRC and noted social worker Suniti Sonowal, among others.
In the following sessions, social workers, social scientists, representatives of the students’ bodies like the All Bodo Students’ Union, Takam Mishing Porin Kebang and several citizens took part.