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The Modi Govt. Just Took Us Back To A Regressive Colonial Law With This New Ordinance!

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By Naomi Hazarika:

Most battles fought in the Indian subcontinent were regarding one of the most important natural resources – land. And this battle over land still continues. The National Democratic Alliance amended the Land Acquisition Act through an ordinance last week, with which it aims to strengthen a mutually beneficial collaboration between farmers and industries. Although the aim of the ordinance may be to ‘reform’ this act for the better, the amendment hardly shows any promise. The amendment has not only expanded the list of projects that would be exempted from requirements of consent and Social Impact Assessment, but also subtly makes significant changes in the provisions that change the orientation of the act. It dilutes the time limit of five years put on projects after which if land remained unutilised, would go back to the landowner. It has made it harder to prosecute civil servants, reduces the scope of the retrospective clause and opens up doors for permissible infrastructure.

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The Hindu reports that “A study released by a US based think tank, Rights and Resources Initiative and Society for promotion of Wastelands Development, studied the Supreme Court and High Court judgements from the past 10 years and newspaper reports on land disputes, and found that land conflicts alone affect one-fourth of India’s districts.” The real cause behind unrests has majorly been about issues related to land. Unlike the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, that was brought in by the UPA government and was heavily criticised by the industry for making land acquisitions tedious, the ordinance has mostly just diluted the essence of the Act. By relaxing the time period after which a piece of unutilised land has to be returned to its owner (amendment to Section 101), it gives justification for an entity to keep that land even after five years. By asking for government sanction while prosecuting civil servants, it seeks to make life easier for them and pave the way for defaulters to get away without any accountability. The earlier version of the Act strictly called for action against defaulting civil servants. Similarly, the original Act says the retrospective clause will apply in cases where the land was acquired five years or more before the commencement of the new Act but no compensation has been paid and possession has not been taken regardless of the delay caused by the litigation processes. A month before the ordinance was cleared, a Comptroller and Auditor General report on Special Economic Zones was tabled in the parliament. It found out that of the 45,635 hectares of land for SEZs, no operations had taken place in 38% of the land over several years. Developers like Reliance and DLF were criticised for acquiring land but using up only a fraction of it. There is glaring evidence of land being acquired and left idle for years together. But with the ordinance, this retrospective clause will not apply if delay is caused by the court proceeding like stay or injunction by court. Thus, this time will not be counted in the five year period. Not only does this look like a loophole in the mechanism, it actually is damaging two different contours of the scenario. By creating this loophole, it is also feasting on the inadequate judicial processes that follow any legislation. Court stay orders have been politically used to delay proceedings before, and here we see it has been conveniently put in place for misuse again.

Most importantly, it has expanded the array of people who can acquire these lands. By replacing the term “private company” with “private entity”, it has made it easier for entities to have control and bypass any checks on them. “Earlier the acquisition for private purposes was limited to ‘Private Companies’, which are registered under the Companies Act. Now it has been extended to any ‘Private Entity’ that includes proprietorship, partnership, NGO or any other entity,” says a statement released by AAP. The ordinance also exempts projects for defence and defence production, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors as well as infrastructure and social infrastructure projects and Public Private Partnership projects where the ownership lies with the government, from consent and SIA requirements.

The land reforms are hardly any ‘reforms’ in essence as much as they are dilutions of the law for the benefit of one section of the society. But bringing in changes like these to a previously perfectly balanced Act has changed the orientation of the Act altogether which now makes it easier for private entities to acquire land and provides loopholes for defaulters to get away. A huge chunk of the social conflict in India stems from a lopsided land distribution and acquisition system. Problems like Maoist violence, resistance against POSCO plants in Odisha and various other protests against acts of so called “development” point towards a systematic oppression of the farmers and the less privileged. Now backed up with legislations that favour the rich, farmer’s issues will slowly cease to matter. The ordinance paves the way for unnecessary arbitrariness in the decision making processes and provides with little or no infrastructural development. The BJP led government is trying to create deep structural changes in the Indian economy, at home and abroad, with its flagship Make in India project and Niti Aayog. But all these structural changes deepen the gap between the people of the privileged class who don’t really need help and people below the poverty line who need help to even survive. As long as these changes go unchecked, the plight of the real victims of the agrarian and rural crisis of the country – the farmers – will never be addressed.

Have you seen this 5 minute video where AAP’s Yogendra Yadav explains The Land Acquisition Act, and why the new ordinance is a step back?

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  1. Atul Kumar Dubey

    The ordinance allows land to be taken away from farmers and adivasis without any process of obtaining consent or even an assessment of its social impact on numerous projects which would fall in one of the five categories defined by the government. The BJP government has, in one stroke, betrayed the entire farming and adivasi community and made it clear to them that the government is putting the interests of its powerful corporate masters above the interests of the majority of the citizens. The elected central government is acting with the only intent to favour a select few corporate and business houses.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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