HRF demands that G.O. No. 72 be withdrawn.

Press Release

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that G.O. No. 72 relating to a land pooling scheme (LPS) for an extent of 6116.50 acres in 10 mandals abutting  Visakhapatnam city be withdrawn. In the name of facilitating housing and house-sites to the poor, land that is in the possession of and belongs to the poor is being sought to be acquired! In effect, this would deprive the poor and marginalized of their livelihood. This is unacceptable and we strongly urge the government to desist from going ahead with the public hearings already underway to take over these lands.

          Among the lands sought to be acquired under the LPS are 2552.33 acres of assigned land and an extent of 2343.98 acres of occupied land. The G.O. envisages giving 900 square yards to those holding assigned lands, and 450 square yards to those in possession of government land for over 10 years and 250 square yards to those in possession of the land for over 5 years. Those holding the land presently are the poor and dalits whom the government now wants to dispossess.

          While the process appears to be pro-poor, in reality it only undermines their means of survival. Land occupied by the poor (predominatly small, marginal farmers, most of them dalits) is being tilled by them for subsistence. How are they to survive if this land is taken over and a small extent given them in return?It would do well to remember that a fair extent of these assigned lands are already in the possession of the well-connected rich. Not just that, large extents of government land has been grabbed by various political leaders. Two SITs have gone into the matter of such illegalities but to no avail.

The G.O. goes on to state that 15 per cent of the total land acquired will be with the Visakhapatnam Metropolitan Region Development Authority (VMRDA) ostensibly to meet the expenses of development. We feel that the whole process is intended to profit land grabbers, real estate brokers and the politically well-heeled working in conjunction with corrupt revenue and registration personnel.

If the government really seeks to acquire land for housing and handing over house-sites to the poor, it would do well to do so under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013. Here too, it would be proper and just to leave the land on which the poor rely on and to instead take over extents that are in plain encroachment by the rich and powerful. G.O 72 also prescribes a timeline of a month for the process of LPS to be completed and the total extent handed over to the VMRDA. We anticipate that the poor will be somehow coerced into parting with their land.

HRF calls for the LPS process that has already begun, to be immediately stopped and G.O. 72 rescinded. Land acquisition for distribution of house sites to the poor, which is a welcome welfare measure, must be done through the 2013 Act and not by deploying an undemocratic, unfair and high-handed LPS. As in the past, there is a strong possibility of it turning into yet another land scam of immense proportions.

M Sarat (HRF Visakhapatnam district president)

VS Krishna (HRF AP&TS Coordination Committee member)

31-1-2020

Visakhapatnam

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