Medha Patkar criticised this kind of forced development, which she called “aggressive progress” which furthers interests of cities alone. “The current land bill has included everything from highways to dams under infrastructure...people are still without roads and toilets.”
She further stated that the idea of this need for infrastructure has been propagated effectively. Most speakers commented on the sheer size and complexity of this project. “People have been fighting battles against SEZs, railway tracks, power plants little knowing that they were fighting the DMIC. Even the Principal Secretary in Maharashtra said that he knew no more than we do; that too from the website,” Patkar said.
All six states have been doing the groundwork irrespective of ruling parties. Legal changes are being brought about to legalise the loot; blanket clearances over labour laws, land acquisition laws, environmental compliance rules for smooth implementation of the DMIC. “But no project is possible without people’s participation,” Patkar said ending with triumphant “Kheti Bachao, Desh Bachao”
Vikram Soni shared a presentation over water security illustrating the grave situation of water scarcity and availability, especially in the DMIC regions. 5% of increasing sea levels is attributed to India’s lost groundwater alone! The strip between Mumbai and Delhi is also the driest in the country. It is seriously water stressed as most of its groundwater has been withdrawn. This makes the question of water availability for the DMIC a pertinent question. “Leave alone rights, we’re talking about survival,” Soni said, adding that water acquisition must also be added to people’s agenda.
The second session saw members K. B. Saxena (former secretary GOI), Abimanyu Shreshta (lawyer Supreme Court), Himanshu Damle (financial analyst, Bank Information Centre), Soumya Dutta (environmentalist, BVES) and Swati Sheshadri (Researcher, EQUATION) presenting brief analysis on the legal, environmental, financial aspects and on the land acquisition act and even tourism as land grab tool.
Saxena interestingly pointed out that land acquired through private transactions is beyond anybody’s control, and hence should be looked into at length. Soumya Dutta, talking about the environmental aspects, focused on the spillover effects of additional factories being set up to provide resources for the DMIC industrial belt.
On the legal front, Abhimanyu Shreshta pressed on the point of raising objections as soon as notifications are received, otherwise there might not be a chance to do so later. Himanshu Damle suggested putting up pressure on the IIFC (Indian counterparts of the Project Development Fund) to share their safeguard policies in a transparent way. Swati Sheshadri’s presentation on tourism marked the end of the session. She spoke of inevitable recreational set –ups like hotels, golf courses etc. to cater to the industries. Since tourism requires small sizes of land, and is acquired through private transactions, it evades most acquisition laws, environmental clearances and others.
The session closed with a discussion on steps to be taken next and formulation of an multi- action plan for coming months leading up to the 2014 elections.
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