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As Land Grabbing Gains Focus, This Real Problem With Land Acquisition Is Untold

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By Bala Sai:

If one were to list the biggest headaches that the BJP government has had to face in recent times, then the land acquisition bill would be amongst the top five, and with good reason. Land has heavy sentimental value. Owning a piece of land is more than just an asset – it is a matter of pride and identity and a sense of belonging. Lives and livelihoods are shaped by it, and around it, especially if we are talking about the land that is used for agriculture.

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Photo Credits

The process of acquiring land for setting up industries and infrastructure projects is an issue that transcends the sphere of mere resource distribution, and concerns itself with a lot more, including human rights, freedom of choice, equity, justice and the forced encroachment of an assortment of rights, which we are promised as citizens of the country; putting a question mark on the very spirit of democracy.

It has proven to be too complex a problem to be easily delineated into zones of black and white. It isn’t a question of rich corporate predators terrorizing innocent peasants to steal their land – an image we like to generally paint. The point is that acquisition, particularly of agricultural lands, is not just inevitable, but very much necessary for our overall development.

Several factors have contributed to making land acquisition a particularly painful experience both for the buyer and the seller, incurring a colourful array of losses at both ends, of which a key factor is the presence of enough holes in the legislature to sink an island. Before the 2013 act came about, the quickest way to experience time travel was to have your land acquired by the government or by private players, in which case you promptly found yourself transported back to 1894 and its the laws, which were still being followed back then. The lives of the people displaced depended upon the philosophical interpretations of vague, ominous phrases in the legislature, and the procedures for acquisition were as transparent as a rock.

The Government’s National Policy for Rehabilitation states that since 1951, around 75% of the people who have been displaced are still awaiting rehabilitation. Lakhs of people have been displaced around the country to facilitate dam projects, infrastructure, and industrial development projects over the years. Small farmers and tribals with little bargaining power have had their lives turned around overnight, falling into the clutches of poverty, discrimination, and loss of identity, choked by loopholes in the law and middlemen who understood how to exploit them to make windfall gains. The tortuous process, held in a stranglehold by bureaucratic red-tapism meant that the industries had to suffer too, as they had to watch with growing agony, their investments putrefying and being eaten away slowly, by the clogged system.

In 2013, the UPA government at the centre tried to make amends to the injustice (while simultaneously seducing voters) with a heavily anti-industry, pro-poor act, seeking to send our country reeling back into a state of developmental stasis. The BJP, back then, played to the gallery, pressing for an even stronger act that would have cracked the trachea of anybody daring to think of development.

Today, with a resounding mandate, and with development once again becoming all the rage, the BJP has taken a perfectly acrobatic back-flip, proceeding to propose a bill that would basically reset the entire game. This move, predictably, has drawn a lot of flak, and the government seeking to flamboyantly ‘ordinance’ itself through all opposition, has further dented its image.

The proposed bill endorses temporary solutions like exemptions, while not addressing the root of the issue. We have seen enough wrestling matches between one side and the other to understand that the real, structural changes are the ones that are required to create an honest, quick, and transparent system with minimal government interference – which makes sure that neither of the sides feel violated, and no third party runs back home with undue profits.

So as to provide a succinct and clear definition of the problem at hand, AskHOW India has made an insightful slideshow that highlights the cobwebs that have settled around the core of the issue and provides important solutions that should be taken seriously if reforming the acquisition process falls anywhere within the realms of the government’s interests. You can find the slideshow here:

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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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

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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