#India – Farmers boycott land acquisition hearings for Chhindwara SEZ, Madhya Pradesh


Date:Jun 14, 2013
Villagers refuse to part with land; object to individual hearings, land acquisition by dubious means

Farmers and landowners protesting against land aquisition at the PWD guest house in Saunsar (Photo: Mukesh Badge)Farmers and landowners protesting against land aquisition at the PWD guest house in Saunsar (Photo: Mukesh Badge)

Around 150 farmers from eight villages in the Saunsar tehsil of Chhindwara district in Madhya Pradesh gathered at the guest house of the public works department (PWD) on Thursday and staged a protest. They were aggrieved by the individual hearing process adopted for land acquisition for a proposed special economic zone (SEZ) in the area. June 13 marked the first of the many individual hearings scheduled with the district collector to hear objections of farmers to the SEZ, which the farmers boycotted.

The process of acquisition of land for a multi-purpose SEZ developed by Nagpur-based Chhindwara Plus Developers Limited has been going on in the Saunsar tehsil of Chhindwara district since 2007, say farmers. Ramesh Kumre, land acquisition officer and sub-divisional magistrate, Pandurna,  says around 1,800 hectare (ha) of land has already been acquired in the area by following procedures under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

Around 269 farmers and other land owners in the eight villages have refused to part with 430 ha of land which is still required for the SEZ, says farmer Bhaskar Tekade of Satnoor village. In April this year, a land acquisition notice was issued to the panchayats, following which representatives from the various villages went to district collector Mahesh Chowdhari to submit their objections. Chowdhari refused to accept it, says Shyamla Sanyal, owner of a small gun-powder factory in Satnoor. “On April 30, which was the last day for submitting objections, we had to take a bus-load of people from the villages and staged a demonstration before the objection was finally accepted,” she says.

Notices were issued to the villages, asking farmers to register their objections at individual hearings scheduled on different dates between June 19 and June 22. As late as the night of June 11, farmers from three villages were issued fresh notices, asking them to attend hearings on June 13 and 14. This last move, says Sanyal, “is totally unacceptable. When we asked the land acquisition officer the reason behind the change in dates, he said that he had other appointments on the previous dates. This is no way to hold hearings on such crucial issues.”

Legal procedures sidelined

At the protest, farmers protested against individual hearings, accusing the administration of trying to divide the community. “It is illegal to call people for hearings on different days,” says advocate Aradhana Bhargava of the people’s organisation Kisan Sangharsh Samiti who is providing legal support to the agitation, “The administration should have held a public hearing under the proper sections of the law.” She also says that land acquisition by government agencies is legal only in case of lands acquired for a public purpose. “Why is government aiding a private project proponent?” she asks. The notices also said that if farmers failed to turn up on the given date, the administration would take a suo-moto decision, which again is totally illegal, she says.

Farmers at the meeting submitted a memorandum to the land acquisition officer stating that they do not wish to part with their land and that the administration should not issue further land acquisition notices to the people. It was signed by 150 farmers and other land-owners, says Sanyal.

Land acquisition officer Ramesh Kumre confirmed that the hearing had been cancelled because farmers turned up in a group instead of individually.

Deceit and coercion

Farmers complain that no legal procedures were observed in the land acquisition process. “The land acquired earlier has been obtained through dubious means,” Tekade told Down To Earth. “Mostly poor and marginal farmers were targeted through touts, and were relieved of their land for as little as Rs 40,000 to Rs 3 lakh per ha. More than 50 per cent of the farmers whose lands were taken want their land to be restored to them.”

Dubious means were used to get the consent of panchayats, says Satnoor sarpanch Reemaji Dethe. “In February this year, the gram panchayat secretary got my signature on what he said was a routine document. Since I had joined just a month earlier, I did not know the procedures and signed where he asked me to sign. Later I found out that it was a document saying that the gram panchayat consented to the land acquisition,” says Dethe.

“Farmers and small industry owners have been issued threats by the project proponents. Goons are being used to quell protests,” says Sanyal.

 

#India – Face to Face: Kishore Chandra Deo, Union Mininster for Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj


 

Akash Bisht Delhi

A five-time MP from Araku (ST) constituency of Andhra PradeshKishore Chand Deowas first elected to the Lok Sabha way back in 1977. He also served one term in the Rajya Sabha and was a member of the Congress Working Committee.  He was sworn in as theUnion Minister for Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj in 2011 and has also been a chairperson of several important parliamentary committees. In the wake of the cold-blooded murder of tribals in ChhattisgarhHardnews spoke to the veteran politician

 

Q | On May 17, eight tribals, including three children, were killed by the security forces in Ehadsameta in Bijapur district in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. This comes nearly a year after 17 innocent villagers were killed in cold blood by the security forces in Sarkeguda.

Last year, when it happened in Chhattisgarh, I had raised the matter with the appropriate authorities and had taken it up with the then Union home minister and also written to the state government. I can only say that this is most unfortunate because if innocent tribals start losing their lives in this manner then it will only create more resentment among them. This kind of action will further drive them into the arms of the extremists. I have said time and again that, to understand the reasons for the extremist problems, we have to get to the roots of it. I want to reiterate that the problem in these areas cannot be treated merely as a law and order one. The problems at the grassroots are far deeper. We have recognized the problems and created an Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for selected tribal and backward districts.

Exploitation is one of the biggest problems staring at tribal populations in these areas. The threat of mining is severe. If we talk about development then the UPA believes in inclusive growth and it means that the process of development should take along people from the poorest, exploited and marginalized sections of society.

Recently, I came to know about the exploitation of tribals in Mahan Coal Fields (Singrauli) in Madhya Pradesh. I got feedback from the locals that the district administration and main functionaries of panchayats have been manipulated by private miners. I am told that merely 15-20 people of the gram sabha had passed contrived resolutions. This was against the directions from the panchayati raj ministry that the gram sabha meetings have to be video recorded. It also goes against the directions of the tribal affairs ministry that community rights have to be recognized. A contrived gram sabha not allowing community rights to the tribals goes against every constitutional provision. This is the first time I was hearing that tribal communities do not want their rights. This is their mainstay and basic source of their livelihood; that is why I sent guidelines and circulars defining what community rights and resources mean. Thus, when such situations arise, you have such unfortunate events like what happened in Chhattisgarh.

Probably, it’s one of those incidents where force was used to tame the people, but this will only polarize people against the State. After all, the State has to gain the sympathy of the people and they have to realize and recognize their rights. The security forces have to be within the perimeters of the existing laws and if you keep flouting laws and conventions then this is what it will result in. This is very sad.

Q | It has been reported that the post-mortems of the dead tribals were being conducted in the open.

It is not only gory, it is inhuman and this is not the way you deal with your own citizens. Health and law and order are under the jurisdiction of the state government. This doesn’t mean that I am trying to play politics; these things have happened under Congress governments too. I have not spared my own party governments and chief ministers. This is not a party matter and is above politics. These situations, when they develop, become a threat to our nation’s security. It is beyond party matters. The states will have to take up the responsibilities and security forces have to restrain themselves when it comes to dealing with innocent people.

It’s no excuse to say that they were being used as human shields and hence they massacred them. Why were they being used as human shields? You have to go into the causes for that. Once you understand that then you can get to the root of the problem. I have discussed this with the present home minister and he understands this very well. He was totally in agreement with me that this is not the way to handle such situations. I will again be writing to the chief ministers, the home minister and environment and forests ministry. If mining clearances are given without the consent of tribals then you will only be antagonizing them. 

Q |There were protests and anger after the gangrape of a young girl in Delhi, but not many spoke about Soni Sori and how she was tortured and sexually assaulted by the Chhattisgarh police.

I was the one who took up her case. It was raised in the Rajya Sabha by an MP. There was an instance when AIIMS refused to admit her despite a court order. I ensured that she was admitted to the hospital and given proper treatment. We need to create awareness among people about their rights.

 

Q | There are reports that Operation Green Hunt is still being pursued by security forces.

If there are any such reports then I will take it up with the appropriate authorities. I am not opposing that certain operations need to be carried out in certain areas, but there has to be some cause. Going around in a trigger-happy mood and shooting innocent people is not the way to go about it.

 

Q |What role do these gram sabhas and panchayats play in tribal areas? Recent reports suggest that there has been an increase of 25 per cent in centrally sponsored schemes but India still ranks very low in the Human Development Index. The scenario is worse in tribal areas.

They play a very vital role in these impoverished regions and if gram sabhas are allowed to play their role, they will do it. The problem is similar to what I mentioned earlier in Mahan Coal Fields. The tribals wanted to file claims under the Forest Rights Act but their claims were not accepted by the local authorities. If you want to empower people, gram sabhasmust be held regularly. I have sent circulars and they need to be video recorded. Video recording is no big deal today and there are cameras available everywhere. Twenty years back they could have said that it is a utopian idea, but that is not the case now. This is to prevent contrived gram sabha resolutions; if people are allowed to play their roles, half of our problems will be solved.

Panchayati raj is a state subject and every state has its own Panchayati Raj Act. My job is to raise awareness, issue guidelines and monitor. Officially, guidelines have been issued. For instance, they need to hold four gram sabhas every year. I would be happy if they have 40, but they have to be genuine. If the state governments do not comply then there is very little that one can do. This year we have launched the Rajiv Gandhi Panchayati Raj Sashakti karan Abhiyan (RGPSA); this is demand-driven. The annual budget allocation for the panchayati raj ministry is Rs 300-350 crore. I have got Rs 6,200 crore from the Planning Commission for the Five Year Plan under RGPSA. That makes it close to Rs 500 crore annually. The Union ministry for rural development has agreed to give one per cent of its annual allocation because most of their schemes have to be implemented and channelized through the gram panchayats. It may be only one per cent for the rural development minister, but for me it is nearly Rs 1,000 crore, as his annual budget is Rs 99,000 crore per annum. So, in total, it makes Rs 1,500 crore a year which is substantial as compared to what I was getting earlier.

I am ready to give funds to strengthen the panchayati raj infrastructure. I have put some conditions and they have to comply with provisions of the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution. First, they will have to hold elections within six months as prescribed by the Constitution. Then, they will have to devolve their funds, functions and functionaries and hold gram sabhas regularly. I have evolved this marking system where I will be marking them according to these constitutional provisions. States that will comply will get funds accordingly, and since all state governments want funds, so, I think. I will be able to convince them.

Another important thing is that I am not thrusting these funds for any specific purpose. One state may say that they have sufficient panchayat ghars and they don’t want money for that but they want money to pay salaries. I have asked them to give me plans and, based on the requirements, I plan to give them the money. The Union communications ministry has promised that they will give broadband connections to 2,46,000 panchayats in the country by 2014. In fact, they have already done it for 50,000 panchayats. In remote and tribal areas, where there is no power, we will have solar systems. So, the states that need money for computers or solar equipment, I will give them money. We have four software systems that many states are using and six more software systems have been developed and people are being trained. Once the training is over then the state governments will have 10 software systems to use. There will be social accounting and e-governance, and everything that is going on in these panchayats will be documented. This will help us monitor these schemes and take them forward. 

Q | Which are the states that are doing well?

There are certain states that have been doing well but nobody has devolved all the 29 items that are in Schedule 5 of the Constitution. Some states comply with 12, some with 14. States like Kerala, West Bengal, Odisha and Karnataka have been doing very well. In the last couple of years, Haryana has been lagging behind, but now it is performing well. I have started a trend of giving awards for the best performing states. Now, we are also giving awards to specific panchayats for good practices. All this is to sensitize them and give them incentives to make them aware. Recently, there was a Commonwealth Conference for local bodies in Uganda. Unfortunately, the ministry of external affairs made the urban development ministry as the nodal ministry, although the Commonwealth was keen that we participate. I wanted to send some panchayati raj representatives to the conference to give them a sense of empowerment.

 

Q |What about states that are performing below your expectations?

We have not made a list of that. Jharkhand is one such state that hasn’t had elections in 12 years; they had elections when Arjun Munda came to power. The elected representatives are there but what will they do if you don’t give them any funds or devolve any functions? I had written to the chief minister and had gone to Ranchi. Ultimately, the call has to be taken by them.

Another example is Jammu and Kashmir. They had elections after 12 years, but no functions have been given to these elected representatives. No funds are given to them for whatever reasons. They said that because of Article 370 they are not bound by the 73rd and 74thamendments. I said fine, they must be having a Panchayati Raj Act of their own so they should devolve powers according to that. That is not happening. In my state, Andhra Pradesh, there have been no elections in the last two years — hence, there are nopanchayats. So, whom do you talk to? I have been writing to them and there is a constitutional requirement that they have to do it in six months. Besides, this is a Congress-ruled state.  

Q | In north India, panchayats are feudal in nature and Dalits and minorities have no say in them. Similarly, in tribal areas, tribals have no say and local bodies are easily bought off by big business and multinationals. How do you counter this?

Gram sabhas have a special role to play in these areas under statutory provisions within the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act. This was enacted by the central government in 1996. Fifteen years have passed, but, unfortunately, out of the nine scheduled states, only three have made rules. Six have not even done this and they have made their own rules. According to PESA all state governments have to amend their Panchayati Raj Act to see that they are compliant with PESA, but they have not done so. According to PESA, gram sabhas will not be in the panchayat level, but it will be held in every habitation. This is a clarification that I have sent to all state governments of the scheduled states.

Ultimately, they have to take the call. By empowering the gram sabha, we can give the people the role, however indirect it may be, to partake in the process of governance and development. This is one way to draw tribals into the mainstream and to make them feel that they are part of governance. This should get them out of these threats of taking to extremist ways.

In the scheduled areas, even if multinationals buy the panchayats, they cannot enter since there are constitutional provisions and safeguards under Article 244 and the Fifth Schedule. Constitutional safeguards and provisions cannot be overridden by resolutions of gram sabhas or panchayats and even by the devious methods deployed by the state government to flagrantly and blatantly overcome constitutional safeguards. This is totally illegal.

Governors have special powers, so I have written to governors of all scheduled states. I received a reply from the governor of Chhattisgarh. I have written to the governor of Odisha arguing that constitutional provisions have been totally violated in the case of Vedanta. It is a scheduled area and Vedanta is a private company which has no locus standi there. I have written to the governor of Andhra Pradesh who chose to abdicate his powers and rights and I had to take other action.

If you take the case of the Orissa Mining Corporation which is registered under the Companies Act, 1956, these are corporations that can’t take land in Schedule 5 areas. Irrespective of that provision they give land on lease to private companies like Vedanta. This is completely against the provisions of the Constitution. In recent times, there have been a number of cases where shares have been disinvested in such companies. Article 244 of the Constitution can only be amended by Parliament in the manner prescribed in Article 368 of the Constitution. Hence, by disinvesting and taking this surreptitious route, are they not subverting constitutional provisions and bypassing the authority of Parliament?

I have sent a letter based on the Supreme Court ruling on Vedanta. The Supreme Court, in its order, has mentioned about Article 144 (1), but they have not gone deep into the matter. Probably, the counsel who was arguing this case didn’t raise this. The counsel was from the ministry of environment and forests. By the time I became minister, it was too late for the tribal affairs to get involved in this case. But I did raise a lot of hue and cry and I saw to it that an affidavit from my ministry went to the Attorney General who gave it to the Supreme Court. That is the reason why they have made my ministry the nodal authority for looking at the Forests Rights Act and PESA compliances in the Vedanta case.

 

India – Put Gram Sabhas in charge of all social sector schemes


NAGAPATTINAM, May 22, 2013

P. V. Srividya

Mani Shankar Aiyar in conversation with The Hindu in Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu. Photo: B. Velankanni Raj
Mani Shankar Aiyar in conversation with The Hindu in Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu. Photo: B. Velankanni Raj
TOPICS

Mani Shankar Aiyar-led committee prescribes a mechanism for panchayat control

How relevant is panchayat raj in the everyday lives of the people? What is the role of panchayat raj institutions (PRIs) in poverty alleviation and human development? Is poverty alleviation possible through a peripheral role for panchayats as conceived in various Central sector schemes?

Taking up these questions, the Mani Shankar Aiyar-led Expert Committee on “Leveraging Panchayat Raj Institutions for effective delivery of public goods and services,” which submitted its report to the government recently, has suggested that the Gram Sabha should be empowered to monitor and make decisions on all the social sector schemes — Central and State. Citing MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scheme as the model for other schemes, Mr. Aiyar told The Hindu in Mayiladuturai that this move will remove the lacunae in the ‘last mile delivery’ of the schemes.

A panchayat-driven social sector expenditure model empowers the community with a sense of ownership as against the bureaucracy-driven, top-down model currently inbuilt in the Central sector schemes. It calls for a rethink on the way central sector schemes (CSS) on poverty alleviation are designed and the need to retrieve PRIs from the fringes to their rightful place as drivers of rural welfare.

Outcomes are not in sync with the outlays, says the report. The multifold increase in social sector expenditure has barely translated into positive outcomes. There was no tangible rise in the Human Development Indices, despite the exponential increase in social sector expenditure.

The Committee — drawing its template from the Prime Minister’s address to the Conference of Chief Ministers in 2004 that calls for a rethink on the top-down design of programmes — prescribes Activity Mapping for each CSS. Activity Mapping envisions clear delineation of “functions, finances and functionaries,’ shifting the ownership of Schemes from the line departments to elected Panchayats. The report illustrates model Activity Mapping for eight CSS to lead the way.

Grassroots devolution

When the Panchayat Raj experiment was started two decades ago, there was a certain degree of naïveté in believing that effective devolution would just happen, Mr. Aiyar recalls. “Unlike the West, with its local government experience in parishes and counties, here local government was imposed from above. We had to devolve, while the West evolved from local governments.” But, ours was the first such experiment at grassroots devolution leading to tangible social engineering, says Mr. Aiyar.

The Committee’s recommendations include a Centre-drafted model Gram Sabha law to motivate State legislation; freezing of rotation of reserved seats to two or three terms to incentivise good work and facilitate capacity building of panchayat leadership; incentivise PRIs for transparency and accountability and the States to devolve; reorient the outlook of lower bureaucracy to panchayats. The report also prescribes collateral and institutional measures such electronic tagging of funds, setting up of a National Commission for Panchayat Raj, and strengthening Gram Sabhas in PESA areas (tribal areas to which the Panchayat system has been extended by law).

The report recommends the MGNREGA scheme and BRGF (Backward Regions Grant Fund) model that locate PRIs as central to implementation. “We have wonderful examples in MGNREGA and BRGF. MGNREGA was initially worked out without a role for Panchayats. On my personal intervention and literally in a midnight, government’s amendment to the Bill, (and) a strong role for Panchayats came by. Today, it is a highly functional scheme,” says Mr. Aiyar.

While the Committee advocates strong Gram Sabhas that the panchayats are accountable to, the Bill on Land Acquisition lends only consultative powers to the Gram Sabhas.

Even as Mr. Aiyar sees no inherent conflict between intent and action, he does believe there are vested interests. ‘The Sub Committee under me strongly recommended consent by Gram Sabhas. But, there are always vested interests.” Also, most States have not legislated on powers for the Gram Sabhas.

According to the report, effective devolution leads to better outcomes, which in turn engenders political will. It was lack of bureaucratic will and not political will that has stalled effective devolution, says Mr. Aiyar. “My recommendations as chairperson of the Empowered Sub Committee of the NDC (National Development Council) were not acted upon by the Planning Commission. The Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission and the Cabinet Secretary are not elected and their inability to enforce their own circulars reflects lack of bureaucratic will.” The political class did not bear down on the bureaucracy like it did with MGNREGA.

“It is bureaucracy that will have to produce the methodology of devolution. But they did not. Now our report illustrates how to do it through Activity Mapping. They just have to implement it.” Recounting a personal conversation with Rajiv Gandhi in 1989, Mr. Aiyar says the former Prime Minister envisioned a generation’s time for effective devolution. “It is only 20 years now; we have five more years to realise that dream, if our recommendations are implemented.”

 

#India- #Budget2013, Gender insensitive ,enforcing gender stereotypes #Womenrights


Budget 2013- Gender Gap yet again

Not only is budget gender-insensitive, it strengthens gender stereotyping and reinforces the invisibility of women from the economy
First Published: Fri, Mar 01 2013. ,livemint.com
womenindia
What is even more cynical, if not insulting, is the `200 crore allocated for women “belonging to the most vulnerable groups, including single women and widows, (who) must be able to live with self-esteem and dignity”.
Budget 2013, unveiled 10 weeks after the Delhi gang-rape and 10 days before International Women’s Day, was preceded by hope among women that the promises and pledges made by the government to advance their cause would, for once, not remain mere platitudes but be articulated in the single-most important financial document of the year.
The hope was belied. Not only is Budget 2013 gender-insensitive, it in fact strengthens gender stereotyping and reinforces the invisibility of women from the economy in almost every sense of the term.
It is a well documented fact that both the agricultural and the rural sector are heavily feminized, providing a livelihood to four-fifths of all working women in India. Yet, nowhere is this recognized even though the 12th Plan emphatically states that schemes such as Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) will have a special women’s quota, and that single women can form collectives for group cultivation. The latter is an issue that some of us, as part of the Feminists Economists Committee for the 11th as well as 12th Plan have struggled hard for.
Similarly, hugely transformative programmes such as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Rural Mission (JNNURM) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) are all “gender-less”. As is the fundamentally democratic issue of gendering governance, what with Panchayati Raj institutions themselves being given such short shrift.
In fact, no economic agency is ascribed to women; they are the predictable, stereotyped, reproductive agents defined as usual in the syndrome of patriarchal semantics. So, therefore, increased allocations to women and their tag-ons both in societal and budgetary terms—children, nutrition and so on. The issue here is not to deny the crucial importance and desperate urgency of even higher funding for these sub-areas, but to give visibility to the independent economic, budgetary, fiscal and financial status of women.
Additionally, the imperative of gendered financial inclusion has been totally trivialized in the form of an all-women bank, which is easier to set up than to gender-sensitize existing banking procedures; it’s something that will marginalize women even more. Gendered financial inclusion can be greatly enhanced by introducing an equilibrium between financial and physical targets; this is especially important in the context of the fact that women generally take small loans, and the fact that while physical targets may be filled, financial disbursements constitute an insignificant amount. Similarly, what was hoped for were changes in other supplementary monetary instruments such as medical insurance policies which currently have different rules for single women and also men who are out of the marital patriarchal slot.
Additionally, individual taxation is preferred because the economic benefit of working depends on how much a woman earns and not the fact of her location in the patriarchal marital structure. The fiscal instrument of an additional tax exemption to women was expected to be re-introduced in order to increase her incentive to take up employment and shift her labour supply curve. Budget 2013 appears to have absolved the State of any responsibility whatsoever of incorporating employment in its current strategy by insisting that women undertake their own economic empowerment through “assisted” self-employment while men may do so by “skill” enhancement.
While it is good that social sector spending has not been negatively impacted by the Budget, already introduced cuts in subsidies on household maintenance commodities such as kerosene and cooking gas have directly affected the time use pattern of women and increased their time poverty. It thus increases the “reproductive” tax that the woman has to pay to the economy as a direct result of change in macroeconomic policies.
The budget asserts that “We have a collective responsibility to ensure the dignity and safety of women…for which Rs.1,000 crore are pledged…(to) the Nirbhaya Fund..,” so-called because Nirbhaya, or fearless, was the fictional name given by a newspaper to the Delhi gang-rape victim who died on 29 December in a Singapore hospital. Money was allocated but no measures were promised to promote the goal.
What is even more cynical, if not insulting, is the Rs.200 crore allocated for women “belonging to the most vulnerable groups, including single women and widows, (who) must be able to live with self-esteem and dignity”. This largesse works out to a humiliating Rs.74 and 07 paise even if this entire amount is spent solely for the benefit of the 27 million female-headed households in the country. This works to even less than that allocated for the setting up of a National Institute of Sports Coaching.
A budgetary gender critique, to be relevant and true, must be located within the context of the paradigm within which the budget is perceived. If the mantra is “higher growth leading to inclusive and sustainable development,” then we need to urgently re-examine all evidence that has points unequivocally to the fact that in the years when the Indian economy was growing at an 8% pace, there was less than 1% reduction in poverty.
The writer is professor and head, Centre for Gender Economics, Department of Economics, University of Mumbai

National Convention on democratic control over Natural Resources


PRESS STATEMENT

 

Groups from Across Country Attend, Joined by Political Leaders and Social Movements, to Demand an End to Resource Grabbing

More than 400 adivasis and forest dwellers gathered from across the country today at a National Convention on Democratic Control Over Natural Resources that was held at Delhi on Jan 13th 2013 . The meeting put forward a demand that planning, use and takeover of forests and land should be under the control of those dependent on these lands for their livelihood and survival. All laws and state action – whether in implementing the FRA, framing the new Land Acquisition Bill or amending the Mines Act – should comply with this basic principle. The main demands that were finalised at the Convention, after amendments suggested by various organisations and speakers, are annexed below.

Organisations from Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal attended along with sympathisers and representatives from other organisations. The meeting was addressed by Minister for Tribal Affairs Shri Kishore Chandra Deo, who also took questions from the gathering, as well as by political leaders from the CPI, the CPI(M), the Congress, the All India Forward Bloc and the CPI(ML) Liberation and by movement leaders from the All India Forum of Forest Movements, the National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers, the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch and the Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights.

Representatives from each State organisation addressed the meeting and put forward their experiences and perspectives. The meeting was inaugurated by Dr. B.D. Sharma, who outlined the illegal manner in which resources are being grabbed by the state and argued that people’s ownership over their lands and resources should ber respected in all projects. The Minister for Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj, Shri Kishore Chandra Deo addressed the gathering and said that his Ministry is in full support of many of the issues raised in the demands and the process for acting on them has already begun. He stated that the Ministry has issued guidelines and amended the Rules under the Forest Rights Act to strengthen recognition of community rights, end insistence on illegal evidence, and to ensure that the Act’s process is implemented correctly. He said that he has just written to the Environment Minister to reiterate that the gram sabha’s consent must be taken prior to diversion of forest land. The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has recently issued directions to State governments to ensure that gram sabha meetings are held at the level of actual villages and not those of panchayats. He requested that those gathered here should help ensure that people are aware of their rights. He also stated that the Ministry had taken steps to ensure provision of a minimum support price for minor forest produce. In response to questions from those gathered, he reiterated that oral evidence is admissible as proof of claims by non-ST claimants and that he is taking steps to ensure implementation of the Act in municipal areas. Finally, in response to the many incidents of illegality, violations and atrocities that were raised by those present, he requested them to submit written complaints so that action can be taken.

Shri Bhakta Charan Das (Congress), Member of Parliament from Kalahandi, Odisha, addressed the gathering and expressed his strong support for the people’s struggle for rights over natural resources and against illegal takevoer. Shri SP Tiwari, All India Forward Bloc, stated that Netaji did not fight for freedom in order to have a state machinery that expropriates adivasis and forest dwellers for private capital; he called for a united struggle to change this system. Com. D. Raja(CPI) stated his party is in full solidarity with this struggle and with the demands of the Convention. He committed that his party would raise these issues inside and outside Parliament. Com. Pulin Baske (CPI(M), and Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch) stated that the government is not concerned with the problems of forest dwellers and tribals and will not provide people with rights; rights must be fought for and won. Hence the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch has planned actions to demand rights and to halt the handover of natural resources for the benefit of private capitalists. Com. Kavita Krishnan (CPI(ML) Liberation) welcomed the convention and its proposed demands, as the real issue is not one law or the other, but the fact that a democratic system of resource control should be in place. It is not people who need a land acquisition law; it is the state and the capitalists; people need systems of planning and resource use that are under their control. For this it is necessary to fight the exploiters at every level and fight for systemic change.

Among movement leaders, Com. Smita Gupta (Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch) noted that the Manch agrees with most of the demands of the Convention and that it is a united struggle that will produce a way forward for democratic control over resources. She raised the additional issues of people’s right to food and for obtaining a minimum support price for minor forest produce. Roma (National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers) narrated the manner in which the Forest Rights Act has been subverted in Uttar Pradesh and the fact that everyone is attempting to undermine, bypass or ignore the gram sabha. She called for a united struggle to strengthen the gram sabha. Ningreichon (Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights) expressed her solidarity with those who had gathered and pointed out that similar issues are arising in the Naga areas. Lal Singh(All India Forum of Forest Movements) called for a united struggle on these matters across the country. Com. Reddy from the Trade Union Coordination Committee welcomed the gathering and narrated similar experiences that his comrades had had in struggling against illegal tiger reserves and evictions in Andhra Pradesh.

After inclusion of points suggested by the speakers and a discussion, the demands were agreed upon at the Convention and approved by those gathered.

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

9873657844, forestcampaign@gmail.comwww.forestrightsact.com

DEMANDS

Across India today there are struggles for forest rights, against land acquisition and against mining projects. These struggles are united by their resistance to the use of state power to expropriate natural resources in the interests of the ruling class.

In this context we believe the crucial struggle is to bring natural resources under democratic, collective control. We therefore hold that the following basic principles should be part of all laws relating to forests, land and minerals:

  • All community and individual rights under the Forest Rights Act must be recognised and respected. Rejected claims should be reopened and all deadlines on filing of claims should be lifted. Officials who reject claims on illegal grounds should be prosecuted. Gram sabhas should be called at the level of actual villages, not as per arbitrary panchayat or other boundaries. Non-ST forest dwellers’ rights should be recognised, all forest dwellers should receive community rights without discrimination, and oral evidence should be accepted as evidence of eligibility. Titles that are much smaller than people’s actual occupation should be corrected. Cases against forest dwellers for exercising forest rights should be withdrawn.
  • Procedures similar to those under the Forest Rights Act should be put in place to recognise individual and community rights over revenue lands. State governments like Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and others that have framed Rules contrary to PESA should withdraw them and ensure that the gram sabha’s powers over natural resources are respected. All tribal areas should be brought under the Fifth or Sixth Schedules. The Sixth Schedule pattern should be followed in all Fifth Schedule areas as mandated by PESA. All Ministries and all levels of the government should be mandated to comply with and respect people’s rights.
  • The powers of the gram sabha under PESA and the FRA to manage and protect forests and community resources, and to use all forest resources including timber, should be respected. All forest diversion in violation of the Forest Rights Act and done without the consent of gram sabhas should be stopped. Joint Forest Management should be withdrawn.
  • After recording of rights, a land use plan should be prepared for each district starting from the village upwards. No projects or other economic activities that do not fit this plan should be permitted. No takeover of lands assigned to weaker sections, such as Dalits and adivasis, for homestead or cultivation should be permitted.
  • In rural areas, no project involving expropriation of these natural resources should be permitted without the consent of the concerned gram sabhas of the affected villages. In urban areas, the concerned basti sabha can serve the same purpose.
  • Every change of land use above a certain limit – in the case of rural areas, the agricultural land ceiling – should be treated as an acquisition and subject to requirements for consent of the community and provision of rehabilitation.
  • State subsidies and projects should be directed towards cooperative projects where those in the area itself cooperatively utilise their natural resources. Harvesting of minor forest produce; small hydropower projects owned and operated by the community and feeding regional electricity grids; etc. are such possibilities. Subsidies and tax incentives for corporate expropriation of resources should be halted. Instead of acquisition and diversion of forest land, land and resources should be leased from communities.
  • Where large projects are accepted by communities, ownership of share equity in the project should be provided to the community as per the Bhuria committee recommendations of 1996; there should also be provision of complete rehabilitation in tribal areas with land for land and land to landless people. Further, a white paper should be brought out by the government about the total displacement, rehabilitation and resource expropriation that has taken place since independence. Further expropriation for large projects should be halted until this is completed.
  • The state machinery should provide support to people’s livelihoods through a universal PDS, provision of minimum support price for minor forest produce, etc. rather than supporting the corporate sector with subsidies.

 

#India-Khap bans jeans and T-shirts for girls in #Haryana #Vaw #moralpolicing #WTfnews


By , TNN | Jan 8, 2013,

Khap bans jeans and T-shirts for girls in Hisar
A khap panchayat in Hisar village has ordered youngsters not to use mobiles and has told girls not to wear jeans.
HISAR: A khap panchayat in a Hisar village has banned mobile phones for youngsters and ordered girls not to wear jeans and T-shirts. Organising a DJ party is out of bounds and a complete prohibition on liquor has also been issued.

The decision was taken by the panchayat at Khedar village. Sarpanch Shamsher Singh said, “We have decided to ban alcohol as it is the main reason behind rapes. We have also banned jeans and T-shirts for girl students as it is not a proper dress.”

Shanti Devi, a middle-aged woman present at the panchayat said, “The decision of the panchayat is good and will check the harassment of girls. Poor dressing is the main reason behind rapes”. The panchayat formed an 11-member committee to ensure that the decision is implemented. “We welcome the decision of the panchayat and anyone organizing a DJ party in the village will be fined Rs 11,000. Our main purpose is to close the alcohol shops in the village as liquor is the main reason behind attacks on women,” said panch Mahaveer Singh, a resident of the village.

Youngsters have opposed the diktat. “The decisions will prove to be counter-productive. The mobiles can be useful in alerting parents or the police in case of assaults,” said Ram Kishan, a young man from the village. Another man, who termed the khap diktat outlandish, irrelevant and objectionable, said on anonymity: “These people are vindictive. If we question their decision they will ban us from the

#India-Settle rape case with Rs 50000, UP panchayat tells victim #WTFnews #Vaw


IANS | Jan 4, 2013,

Settle rape case with Rs 50000, UP panchayat tells victim

LUCKNOW: Rs 50,000 as compensation for being kidnapped, taken to Nagpur and raped in captivity for many days. That was what a panchayat in Uttar Pradesh has offered a 13-year-old who came to them with her tale of horror at the hands of a youth from the village.

The panchayat in Mauli village in Pratapgarh, about 170 km from here, pronounced its “judgment” late Thursday, police officials said Friday, even as RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat‘s comment that crimes such as rape take place in India and not so much in Bharat kicked up a massive controversy.

The girl has alleged that a youth sexually assaulted her in the village and then kidnapped her at gunpoint and took her to Nagpur in Maharashtra.

She said she was sexually abused for many days and detained against her will. After about a week, she managed to give the rapist a slip and return home December 27.

Faced with her horrific tale, the panchayat in Mauli felt there was “no point taking the matter further” and decided monetary compensation was the best way out, an official told IANS.

He added that the young rape victim had petitioned the superintendent of police after which an FIR was lodged against a village youth.

Having heard her ordeal, the family decided to approach the police. The local police station paid little heed to her complaint, however.

Her brother then approached the superintendent of police (SP) in Pratapgarh after which the complaint was lodged.

Sarvesh Kumar Mishra, the station officer of Kunda, told IANS that a case had been slapped on the accused and the girl had been sent for medical examination.

“We have done the needful and action would be taken as per law,” Mishra said, refusing to comment on the panchayat’s ruling.

Differences, it is learnt, have cropped up in the panchayat, with some members not in agreement with the Rs 50,000 diktat.

Conditioned to believe that rape was the worst fate to have befallen their daughter, elders in her family told the panchayat Jan 2 that they would be okay if the girl, after attaining adulthood, was married to the rape accused.

The panchayat, however, turned down the offer and tried to thrash out a solution between the two families.

It then came up with the formula of asking the accused’s family to compensate her by giving her Rs 50,000. It also asked the girl’s family to withdraw the police complaint.

What will happen to her complaint is still unclear.

But as the debate over crimes against women intensifies in the country following the gang-rape and death of a Delhi girl, it is hoped that this village girl from Uttar Pradesh will be given justice.

 

#India- Khap bans DJ in 42 Haryana villages #FOE #Music #censorship #wtfnews


Now, Haryana khap bans disc jockeys

By , TNN | Dec 12, 2012, 04.17 AM IST

Now, Haryana khap bans disc jockeys
A khap panchayat in Hisar, Haryana banned disc jockeys on Tuesday for “creating noise in marriages and other functions” in 42 villages of the district.

HISAR: A khap panchayat in Hisar, Haryana banned disc jockeys on Tuesday for “creating noise in marriages and other functions” in 42 villages of the district.

Phool Kumar, a spokesperson of the Satrol khap panchayat, said that the violators would have to pay a fine of Rs 5100.

On Sunday, one man was shot dead while five others were injured following the clash after few villagers objected to the presence of a DJ in Khurda village of Kaithal district.

Addressing the panchayat, Inder Singh, a khap leader, said, “The DJ system is causing noise pollution and is also harmful to the animals kept by farmers. Due to high volume of music, people can’t milk buffaloes and cows in the morning as the animals are unable to sleep at night.”

“With DJs around, youngsters dance under influence of liquor and sometimes misbehave with women. Because of this women can’t participate in celebrations, preferring to stay indoors. It’s a waste of money, especially when the villagers are facing financial crisis,” Singh added.

There are more than 100 villages in Rohtak, Mahendergarh, Rewari and Bhiwani districts where khap panchayats have prohibited DJs in the last five years.

 

#India-Bihar village bans women from using mobiles #Vaw #wtfnews


Indo-Asian News Service | Updated: December 03, 2012 15:56 IST

 Bihar village bans women from using mobiles

Representational Image

PatnaA village panchayat in Bihar has prohibited women from using mobile phones and imposed heavy fines on them if they violated the diktat, an official said today.
The self-styled social reformers of Sunderbadi village panchayat in Kochadham block of Kishanganj district issued the orders on Sunday, banning women from using mobiles, a district official said.”The villagers have issued an order to impose a fine of Rs.10,000 if a girl is found using a mobile phone, while a married woman will have to pay a fine of Rs.2,000 if found talking on a mobile outside her house,” the official said.

A senior official at the police headquarters said it was the first such diktat issued by a village panchayat in Bihar. “There is no precedent to such an order issued by a Bihar village panchayat,” the official said.

The Sunderbadi panchayat has also ordered women not to bathe by the roadside.

“The decision was taken in a meeting attended by panchayat members and village elders,” Mohammad Manzoor Alam, who presided over the meeting, told IANS today.

Mr Alam said the villagers, mostly elders, favoured imposing the ban.

“Mobile phone is the cause of all evils in our society, including increasing love affairs and the incidents of elopement,” he claimed.

Kishanganj is a Muslim-dominated district, and among the most backward districts in Bihar, with 60 percent of the population living below the poverty line.

Fact Finding-Killing of civilians at Bhaliaguda in Odisha


23-11-2012, Press Release

 

Following media reports of an encounter between the police and Maoists in Gajapathi district of Odisha on November 14 leading to the death of 5 Maoists, a team of the Human Rights Forum (HRF) enquired into the matter.

The team, consisting of HRF general secretary VS Krishna and writer and social activist Deba Ranjan Sarangi visited the villages of four of the deceased on November 21 and spoke with their relatives and the local people.  The names of those killed in the firing by the police are: (1) Aiba Padra (35) of Bujuli village in Gadhapur panchayat. (II) Shyamson Majhi (50) of Bhingiriguda in Saramuli panchayat. (III) Ghasiram Bagsingh (33) of Mardhipanka village, Saramuli panchayat and Sanathan Mallick (27) of Gaheju village in Hatimunda panchayat. All four villages are located in Daringabadi block of Kandhamal district and fall in the jurisdiction of the Brahmanigaon police station. For reasons of time we could not visit the village of the 5th deceased Laxmi Kanta Nayak which is Lujuramunda in Bahadasahi panchayat of block Bastingia in the limits of Tikabali police station. However, we spoke with his relatives and wife Basanthi over the phone.

On the basis of our enquiries we state emphatically that all five of the deceased are not armed Maoist cadre but civilians. They did not die in an encounter but were murdered by the police. The version of the police that a combing party of the Special Operations Group and District Voluntary Force were fired upon on the forenoon of November 14 by Maoists in the Bhaliaguda forest area of Gobindapur panchayat (on the Gajapati-Ganjam border) in the jurisdiction of the Mohana police station following which they returned the fire in self-defence resulting in the death of 5 Maoists is nothing but a blatant falsehood.

All five killed were civilians and unarmed. They were farmers who were leading completely over-ground lives. While three of them, Aiba Padra, Shyamson Majhi and Sanatan Mallick were adivasis of the Kondh tribe, Ghasiram Bagsingh and Laxmi Kanta Nayak were Scheduled Castes belonging to the Pano community. Interestingly, three of them, Ghasiram Bhagsingh, Shyamson Majhi and Aiba Padra were also social activists.

Aiba Padra of Bujuli (located at about 2 km up a mountain) had some land on which he raised ginger and turmeric. His wife Ranjita is an anganwadi worker in the village and they have a 6 year old son who studies at the Good Shepherd School in Brahmanigaon. Aiba was employed with an NGO Orissa Health and Medical Research Institute for which he was filling in details of the government’s socio-economic and caste census. He was, according to residents of the village, quite concerned about the development of the area and took an active part in persuading his maternal uncle Lukosuna Majhi, a BJD functionary and that party’s contestant for the 2009 Assembly polls from G Udayagiri, to get a road laid to Bujuli. According to Ranjita, Aiba was driving her and their son on his motorbike from Brahmanigaon on November 12 when he said that there was some work he had to attend on and would be back the next day. He dropped them off enroute Bujuli and that was the last she saw him alive. She heard the news of his death from some residents of the village who had gone to Brahmanigaon to collect their pension.

Shyamson Majhi of Bhingiriguda was a much respected man. He was president, since 2004, of a local committee formed by the people and was quite active in issues like exposing panchayat raj corruption and laying of roads to remote villages. He had unsuccessfully contested for the Saramuli sarpanch’s post in 2006. He, along with several other activists, had met the Revenue Divisional Commissioner of southern region at Berhampur recently seeking electricity for his and other villages. Shyamson was also trying to get an NGO in the area to facilitate a potable drinking water scheme for Bhingiriguda.

Along with Ghasiram Bagsingh, (one of the others killed in the bogus encounter) Shyamson took active part in the anti-corruption movement in the panchayat that focused upon, among other things, the siphoning of rice meant for relief for the 2008 Khandamal riot-hit. The Saramuli sarpanch Kamala Patmajhi and her husband Karma Patmajhi and their associates were responsible for diverting a substantial part of the rice and were thus profiting. Because of the sustained movement this year against them, the sarpanch was arrested and remanded to judicial custody for about 2 weeks.

On November 13, Shyamson asked his brother Judhistir, a government teacher, for his motorcycle saying he had to go to Daringabadi to seek legal help for 11 of their associates who were being implicated in a false case by Karma Patmajhi and their associates. That was the last his wife Sikko Alu Majhi saw him. The couple have two sons, one of who is mentally challenged. They learnt of Shyamson’s death on the 15th of November from relatives.

Ghasiram Bagsingh (33) of Mardhipanka was by all accounts an exceptionally dynamic activist. He was elected panchayat samiti member in the 2006 polls and was quite well known in the area. Apart from some farming, he also did small construction contracts. He was the leader of the anti-corruption crusade in the panchayat that resulted in the sarpanch getting arrested. He, along with people like Shyamson Majhi took out an impressive rally at Daringabadi on October 12 seeking action against not just the sarpanch but all those who were involved in the rice misappropriation and other illegalities. Videos of this rally are available with shots of the Block Development Officer and tehsildar also who the agitationists petitioned on the occasion. Ghasiram was driving the bike with Shyamson pillion riding on November 13th when they left for Daringabadi. This is the last seen of both of them alive.

Ghasiram was the virtual head of the family after his father passed away in 1998. He took care of his 5 sisters and a brother. Ghasiram’s wife Laxmi is left with four children, two boys and two girls. His entire family and village residents are devastated.

Sanatan Mallick (28) of Gaheju was a farmer who raised ginger and paddy. He was also a pastor his village church. He and his wife Mamita, an anganwadi helper, also ran a small kirana shop in the village. They have two daughters. According to the village residents, he was a good man and of a helpful nature. He would often speak in terms of doing the right thing. The last time Mamita saw him alive was on November 13th when he left home in the morning saying he would return the next day.

While we could not visit Lujuramunda, the native village of Laxmi Kanta Nayak (38), we could gather some information over the phone. He and Basanti, his wife, have 2 daughters and a son. Nayak was a marginal farmer and wage labourer as well. He had left the village along with his cousin Junes Digal on November 13 for Daringabadi. They went to invite Digal’s uncle for a domestic function related to the recent birth of Digal’s second daughter. They even called up a relative Amit saying that they had finished inviting the uncle and would be back in the village. When they failed to return on the 14th, their relatives made enquiries in Daringabadi but to no avail. They learnt the next day that Nayak was no more.

In fact, we were told by several people that Junes Digal survived the firing by the police after which he was taken into their custody. The police kept him confined in illegal custody for almost a week and acknowledged his arrest only on November 20. Two more persons Samsan Mallick(25) of Dahugram and Arun Sunamajhi (22) of Goudugram, coming under Bahmanigaon police station, were produced before the court by the police on 22nd November after family members of both moved habeas corpus in Odisha High Court. They had gone missing after the Bhaliaguda encounter.

The insensitivity of the administration is evident in the fact that not a single one of the families was even informed about the deaths. It was only friends or relatives that gave them the news and they all rushed to the MKCG at Berhampur to pick up the bodies.

We reiterate that the five deceased are unarmed civilians and not underground functionaries of the Maoists as is being made out by the police. This fact can easily be verified from a visit to their villages. None of the 5 had any cases registered against them and they were all leading law-abiding lives.

There was no exchange of fire on the forenoon of November 14 but only unilateral firing by the police. The police, as is their wont, continue to assert that these 5 were armed Maoists who fired upon them thereby necessitating return fire in self-defence resulting in the deaths. This is a standard concoction of the police to explain away extra-judicial killings. After registering a case under section 307 of the IPC (relating to attempt to murder) against the deceased, the police seek to close the case. To allow this to happen would be plain mockery of the law.

A mandatory magisterial enquiry will no doubt be done by the administration but that is no substitute for criminal prosecution of those who perpetrated these killings. The law and the Constitution of India will not have it any other way. We demand that:

1.     The police officers/personnel who participated in the Bhaliaguda killings of November 14, 2012 must be charged under Section 302 of IPC relating to murder as well as other relevant provisions of the penal code and prosecuted.

2.     The investigation in the case must be done by the CBI or a criminal investigation team under the aegis of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

3.     Compensation of not less than Rs 10 lakh must be handed over without delay to the family members of all five killed.

4.     The government must seriously implement protective legislation for adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers in the 5thSchedule areas of the State.

5.     The State and Central governments must desist from treating the Maoist movement as an outbreak of mere criminality. They must acknowledge that the movement has roots in material deprivation, un-freedom and social oppression. The ongoing policy of brutal suppression must be stopped and that movement addressed politically.

 

VS Krishna                                                                            Deba Ranjan Sarangi

(General Secretary, HRF)                                              (Writer and Social Activist)