Refuse assent to Telangana's amendment of Land Acquisition Act: Activists write to Prez

Telangana's Land Acquisition Act amendment is rehash of draconian GO 123, allege activists
Refuse assent to Telangana's amendment of Land Acquisition Act: Activists write to Prez
Refuse assent to Telangana's amendment of Land Acquisition Act: Activists write to Prez
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Activists from the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) have written to the President of India, demanding that he "refuse assent" to the Land Acquisition (Telangana) Amendment Bill, 2016.

Claiming that it completely "nullifies the progressive provisions" of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, passed by the Parliament in 2013, they alleged that it would result in "immense harm to several lakh small and marginal farmers, landless families and displaced persons in Telangana, most of whom are Dalits, Adivasis and women". 

The bill that the activists have referred to, was passed in December last year.

The letter addressed February 28, states that Telangana passed the bill, despite severe opposition from numerous farmers groups, project-affected groups, civil society organizations, political fronts and parties.

“It is not possible to take up developmental projects without taking land. We have a right to amend the Act. The Opposition parties have been trying to put spokes in our plans to take up irrigation projects,” Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao had said at the time.

He was referring to the trouble that the state was facing, while acquiring land for the Mallannasagar Reservoir Project.

The Mallannasagar project, which seeks to divert water to drought-hit regions of the state, will submerge 14 villages in the district. When the project was initially announced, large-scale protests broke out in eight of the 14 villages.

However, many villagers later caved in, barring one, which still continues to protest everyday. 

Read: 250 days on, this Telangana village refuses to budge against a reservoir project

Listing out some of the key provisions of the 2013 Act, activists claimed that "Section 107 only permits the State to amend the Act to provide better R&R and compensation, while Telangana has used this clause to bring in provisions, which in the grab of ‘facilitating land purchase from willing farmers’ would take away a lot of statutory safeguards."

"In fact, for more than a year and a half, Telangana has been undertaking legally questionable acquisitions under a government," they added. 

The activists were referring to a Government Order (GO) 123 which was issued by the state last year, through which it sought to compensate and rehabilitate oustees of the Mallannasagar project. 

The villagers demanded that compensation be given according to the 2013 Land Acquisition Act and moved the Hyderabad High Court.

The Hyderabad HC, while hearing the case, had said that GO 123 violated the 2013 Act, and ruled in favour of the villagers.

"In summary, this proposed Bill of the Telangana Government is a rehash of the draconian GO 123 that was quashed by the High Court, which violates several fundamental rights...If this Bill becomes law in the state of Telangana the very premise of enacting the comprehensive LA & R&R Act, 2013 would become redundant," the activists added.

The signatories of the letter include activists like Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh.

It also includes state based activists like Padmaja Shaw, Vissa Kiran Kumar, Jeevan Kumar, Syed Bilal, Vyjayanthi Mogli along with those affected from Vemulaghat. petition has also been started, which can be found here.

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