Ministers fail to reach consensus on R&R policy

Published: Wednesday 15 August 2007

the draft Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy has hit a roadblock for the second time. The group of ministers (gom) debated the draft policy brought out by the Union ministry of rural development (mord) on July 3, after failing to reach consensus the first time on June 20. The problem areas are compensation and land acquisition.

The proposed compensation package prepared by mord gives landless labourers the position of equivalent beneficiaries as land owners. The proposal hasn't gone down well with gom. On land acquisition, while industry wants the government to acquire land directly for development projects, mord proposals in the draft aim at nullifying the government's role completely in land acquisition.

The second meeting was kept private and media kept at bay."Why the secrecy? Why shouldn't rehabilitation be discussed with people?" asks Himanshu Thakkar of South Asia Network on Dams Rivers and People. Agrees social activist Medha Patkar. "There is no transparency in the process and no room for negotiation. The national policy should focus on development planning with land acquisition being just a part of it but at the moment it seems like the focus is mainly on acquiring land," she said.

The talk of "single window clearance to projects" with respect to the finance minister P Chidambaram's stand in the first meeting is being seen as 'pro-industry'. "It appears as if the finance ministry is treating mord as a peripheral ministry. They seem to be just pushing their projects ahead (at the behest of the industry), rather than consulting with mord," says Patkar. Souparno Lahiri of India Forum says displacement is an issue. "Why have projects in high-density areas?" he asks.

The draft resettlement and rehabilitation policy has always been under scanner (see 'Centre's new draft rehabilitation policy half-baked', Down to Earth, November 15, 2006).

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