The Central Government's recommendations to make significant changes in the Land Acquisition Act 2013, most significantly the removal of the consent clause have left civil society and human rights activists shocked. The changes have been justified by those in power as a means to make the process of acquisition much faster, facilitating a faster turnaround of projects and therefore greater economic benefit. But economic benefit for whom?
In this video report from Jharkhand, Community Correspondent Basanti Soren takes us to the East Parej Open Cast Coal Mines in Ramgarh District where communities from seven villages are yet to see fair compensation from acquisitions done over three decades ago. 'When the company came, it promised to give electricity, water, education and medical aid. We didn't get any of this", says one resident, who joined fellow villagers at a rally organised to put forth demands to Central Coalfields Limited who operates the mines in question.
Plans for expanding the mine have been underway since 2012 and threaten around 228 families in addition to the 1000 who have already been displaced. CCL Plans to reimburse these families on older rates. The Parej project was one 24 that was selected for funding from the World Bank to give mining a boost while ensuring that the worst affects of mining were mitigated. An Environmental and Social Mitigation Project was made cross conditional for the funding that included activities like rehabilitation for those displaced, treatment of effluents and community building for all villages in a one kilometre radius. The well laid out plans, as always seems to be the case, have remained just those.
I dredge up this history because it shows how much help mining companies have in flouting policies and regulations; that it is acceptable for them wreak havoc for the sake of development. Just because many of the affected communities cannot read or write, companies think it is OK to not listen to what they have to say. The decision to do away with mandatory consent in the Land Acquisition Act are reflections of such a mentality. The Act had stipulated mandatory consent of at least 70 percent for acquiring land for Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects and 80 per cent for acquiring land for private companies.
Basanti joined IndiaUnheard to reverse precisely this mentality. For years she saw how people in her community didn't raise their voices because of they feared being persecuted by the powerful. She wanted her people to know that they mattered just as much as the rich sahibs. This video was her second as an IU Correspondent.
India's story of development must not ignore the ugly footprints it has left behind. The narrative can no longer be told without the voices of those who are most affected by 'development projects'-- Indigenous communities like Basanti's. If projects are set up without the consent of affected communities, they will only lay the grounds for bitter conflict detrimental to both business and human rights.
This video was made by a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Basanti Soren. Community Correspondents come from marginalised communities in India and produce videos on unreported stories. These stories are ’news by those who live it.’ They give the hyperlocal context to global human rights and development challenges. See more such videos at www.videovolunteers.org. Take action for a more just global media by sharing their videos and joining in their call for change.
This episode of ‘Awaaz Ho Buland’ is about the environment and our immediate actions to keep our Earth from further deterioration.