Left-wing farmers’ organization, All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha (AIKMS), plans to organize a protest rally here on April 24, against the government’s proposed land law that it says is meant to benefit “real estate business and corporate houses.” The land bill is emerging as the government’s key legislative agenda in Parliament as it opens on Monday for the second half of the budget session after a month-long recess.
Joining the league of political parties and mass organizations opposing the ordinance, the farmers’ body said it will stage a protest at Jantar Mantar on April 24 to register its dissent in this regard.
Those associated with movements against Posco, Singur, Vedanta, Jaitapur, Bhatta Parsaul etc, are expected to turn up for the rally next Friday. The AIKMS has accused the NDA government of resurrecting the anti-farmer British-era land acquisition act through its ordinance and wants withdrawal of the ordinance.
The Land Acquisition Ordinance was re-promulgated on April 3.
“We demand the Centre to withdraw the ordinance. We want the government to take back changes proposed to the 2013 act. This is because the UPA government had come up with the Act following pressure exerted by widespread agitations against the British-era act. The BJP government is now resurrecting the British-era Act by executing the Ordinance. Hence, we are going to protest against it,” Ashish Mital, secretary of the AIKMS central executive committee, said here on Friday.
Mital, referring to a CAG report, claimed that the government is trying to help corporates acquire land for industrialization at a time when two-third of the existing industries have become defunct. He further claimed that 63% of the land acquired for Special Economic Zones (SEZ) was lying unused.
“Production capacity of about 1 lakh mega watt of thermal power plants remains unused. Yet, instead of focusing to improve the agrarian conditions and increasing food security, the government is busy helping corporates grow. The government policy is to attract dollar investments by cheating 70% of hard working rural population,” Mital said.
He targeted the Centre for making “absurd claims” while promoting the ordinance among farmers. “The BJP slogan campaign is absurd. After sensing the anger amongst farmers to the changes made to the 2013 Act, it has started saying the ordinance is pro-farmer. That ordinance will help build canals, provide housing to people… Constructing canals, building homes for farmers will require only 10 to 12% of land the government plans to acquire. You don’t need to displace villagers,” he said.
The farmers’ body announced a protest rally at Jantar Mantar on April 24 to register its dissent.
The AIKMS also accused the government of offering compensation “way below” market rates for their land. Citing examples Mital claimed that land will be acquired from farmers at a notified rate of Rs 120 per sq metres, which will be abnormally low compared to the commercial rate of Rs 5,000 or more in present market conditions.
Tarsem Peters, member of AIKMS central executive committee, said that money did not matter for farmers who know nothing but farming. “What does a farmer do once he loses land? Tilling land is the only thing he knows. So, even if you offer him four times money, it is not going to help them. Plus, it is not only farmers, peasants and labourers who have no other means to survive will be affected,” Peters said.
The AIKMS said that around 5,000 protesters are expected to participate in its one-day protest, likely to be joined by members of anti-Posco movement in Jagatshingpur, anti-Tata movement in Kalinga Nagar, anti-Jaitapur movement in Maharashtra, anti-displacement movements in Nandigram and Singur in West Bengal amongst others.
Besides the duo, Nirbhai Singh and Dharampal Singh, heads of the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh units of AIKMS, were present during the press conference.