Most conflicts arise from government takeover of land, often on behalf of private investors: Report
More than 250 conflicts have arisen over land acquisition cases between 2013 and 2014 in 165 of India’s 664 districts.
This is revealed in a mapping exercise carried out by a Washington-based think tank, Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), along with Delhi-based Society for Promotion of Wasteland Development (SPWD).
The land ordinance cleared by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on Monday hopes to ease the future business of land acquisition across the country.
The map of conflicts over land suggests that unlocking land from existing protests and litigation may not be that easy. At least a quarter of India’s districts are affected by conflicts, the map showed. The land ordinance does not address conflicts arising out of many other laws under which land acquisition takes place, except for increasing the rate of compensation.
The authors of the report say: “Most of these conflicts arise from government takeover of lands, often on behalf of private investors.”
Kundan Kumar, director of the Asia Regional Program of RRI, said, “Given India’s complex land and forest tenure history, transparent and accountable decision making and respect for people's rights are vital missing elements.”
RRI is a coalition of 14 partners and over 150 international, regional and community organisations anchored by the Washington-based Rights and Resources Group, a US-based non-profit organisation (www.rightsandresources.org).
They work together in more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, on advancing forest tenure, land policy and market reforms.
It has previously too mapped land conflicts in India and reviewed forest and land reform policies in several countries. SPWD is a non-profit organisation in Delhi working on land and resource degradation since 1982 (www.spwd.org).
The map was released before the land ordinance was passed by the NDA government but after reports of the Centre’s plans to amend the land acquisition law, as well as make changes to tribal rights over forest lands.
Kumar said, “This raises serious doubts about whether the current model of land takeover – where bureaucrats make decisions behind closed doors to displace or impoverish millions of people – is sustainable in the long run.”
The consequence of forced displacements and consequences of large scale land acquisition done so far is also documented in the High Level Committee on status of tribals.
The committee estimated that 60 million people had been displaced and affected by (private and public) projects between 1947 and 2000.
It quotes researchers’ estimates that people were displaced from 25 million hectares, including seven million hectares of forests and six million hectares of other common property resources during this per period. The report has not been made public as yet by the government.