In December 2007, just before the winter session of Parliament ended, the government tabled the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2007 and the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development has invited suggestions on both the bills as part of their public consultation.
According to the official note of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2007 is an attempt to give a statutory backing to the provisions of The National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007. It also states that the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007 seeks to amend the various provisions of The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 with a view to strike a balance between the need for land for development and other purposes and protecting the interests of the persons whose lands are statutorily acquired.
Both the Bills come at in the context of central and state governments pursuing current rates of economic growth through incentivising industry and the deployment of domestic and foreign private capital on a massive scale in new infrastructure and industry. The relentless drive by the government at Central and State level for investment and related acquisition of land to facilitate the interest of the investors. In Various models are being promoted. These include among others ‘Special Economic Zones' (SEZ), Special Tourism Zones (STZ) 'Private-Public partnerships' and 'Build-Operate-and-Transfer' for infrastructure development and de-notification of forest areas for mining. Apart from tax and duty concessions; dilution of labour and environmental legislations of the country; and dilution of regulatory mechanisms like Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA); government policies are calling for creation of “Land Banks” for all sorts of investment oriented activities including tourism. They are encouraging governments to make land available by the state at desirable locations and low prices to private entrepreneurs and corporations. To make the proposition more attractive, land is promised not just for the requirements of the planned economic activity, but also for other uses such as developing residential townships, business districts or entertainment hubs. As a result, violent conflicts between local communities and government and private developers are on the rise in various parts of the country.
There are numerous people’s movements and civil society groups who have worked for many years fighting a desperate battle against mindless, unplanned displacement and completely inadequate and insensitive rehabilitation (if any) meted out to those displaced. They have sent in their comments and concerns on the both the Bills. We lend our voice of solidarity to those concerns and to the plight of people who are the targets and victims of development induced displacement – who end up paying the costs but not reaping the benefits of such “development”. Along with many other civil society organizations, EQUATIONS also presents a set of comments, concerns and critique of primarily the R&R Bill which is being said to be basis on which land acquisition is to be made by the government in the coming future. We have also commented on few provisions in the LA (Amendment) Bill that we felt was important to make the connections comprehensible. As we work specifically through research and advocacy on the impacts of tourism on communities (many of whom are displaced by tourism and tourism linked infrastructure projects) our critique of the R&R Bill highlights the issues from the perspective of tourism and tourism development linked displacement.