Ranchi, Jan. 18: There was mixed response today to the state government’s belated and long-overdue consultation with the “people” on relief and rehabilitation policy.
The failure to invite “everybody”, hasty invitations extended to only a few activists and the government’s failure to either circulate a draft policy or to present a model for discussion, drew sharp criticism and NGOs and activists from Singhbhum and Kolhan boycotted the state-level meeting.
“While the government issued full-page colour advertisements even before signing MoUs with industrialists,” said a sarcastic Gautam Bose, “it does not feel the need to advertise the draft policy”.
Arvind Anjum, another activist, complained that the invitation was extended to him at the last moment and that too over the telephone. He, too, boycotted the meeting.
Angry activists from Singhbhum described the exercise as a “farce” and resolved to come under the banner of “Visthapan Virodhi Ekta Manch”.
Demanding the closure of polluting sponge-iron units, they also demanded Constitutional protection, on the lines of Article 370 or the Sixth Schedule, so that “outsiders” are prevented from exploiting resources in Jharkhand.
The meeting at Ranchi, chaired by deputy chief minister Sudhir Mahto generated a lot of suggestions.
Land should not be acquired for mining, activists demanded. It should instead be leased to the company, which should return the land after mining the minerals, after suitably refilling the area with sand and earth, they declared.
A negotiable percentage of the value of the minerals should also be set aside as “premium” and used as “shares” of landowners, argued Sanjay Basumullick. In addition, the landowner should also receive as “annual rent” equal to the value of the annual agricultural produce from the land, the activists said. An important suggestion was that unmarried women above the age of 18 should be treated separately, compensated separately and steps taken to train them for an uncertain future.
While setting up industries, landowners should be provided with alternate plots of the same quality or pay adequate compensation to enable them to buy land of the same quality. Moreover, the government should step in to ensure that all the displaced continue to live together as a community.
Sharply condemning the present practice of holding “public hearing”, the activists demanded that Gram Sabhas, comprising all adult members of the village, be authorised to broker the deal between villagers and the investors.
Accusing the government of not doing enough to rehabilitate those who have already been displaced, Stan Swamy declared that “life after rehabilitation” ought to be better than “life before displacement” and not the other way round.
The deputy chief minister said the policy would be ready by the end of January and that the government would take into account the suggestions made today.