Odisha: NAPM Demands Formation Of National Commission To Redress Grievances Of People Displaced By Projects

Bhubaneswar: Voicing concern over the plight of people affected by different projects, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has sought steps to set up statutory commission to redress the grievances of displaced persons

It was recommended in the final report of five public hearings held by Lok Shakti Abhiyan as part of NAPM from 2018 to 2021 on the plight of the displaced people at Koraput, Rourkela, Jharsuguda, Keonjhar and Bhubaneswar.

The report prepared by the jury members was released in Bhubaneswar on Sunday by noted social scientist Prof Virginious Xaxa in a meeting chaired by Prof Manoranjan Mohanty. Prafulla Samantara, President of Lok Shakti Abhiyan said there is no legal or constitutional forum to redress the grievances of people displaced by projects.

Therefore, it is necessary to have a national commission with power to investigate complaints of the displaced people. There should also be state commissions. NAPM will launch a countrywide campaign to press for setting up of such commissions.

Keeping the above facts in mind, the members of the jury, at the conclusion of these public hearings, suggested the setting up of a statutory body along the lines of the existing statutory commissions such as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). It should be called National Commission on the Rights of Displaced People. It should have power to investigate and implement. To be created by an Act of Parliament, this would be formed at the centre having branches in all the states.

This Commission would function like the NHRC and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Commissions, the National Commission for Women and so on. The panel would have the legal authority to enforce its recommendations in letter and spirit. The Commission would be assigned to:

a) Act as a grievance redressal mechanism for people who are already displaced and affected by those projects dating from the time of Independence.

b) Enumerate the number of persons displaced by development projects from 1947 onwards.

c) Publish a yearly status report on persons displaced from different projects.

d) Monitor the proper implementation of different legislations dealing with the displacement of people like the National Highways Act 1956, Forest Rights Act 2006, Coal Bearing (Acquisition and Development) Act 2013, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in LARR Act 2013, making also a periodic policy analysis. The Ammendment by Odisha govt. to scrap social impact study on land acquisition be cancelled .

An official register needed to be maintained not only to monitor the details of displaced people, but also continuously record the process they were undergoing after their displacement.
An annual White Paper on the state of implementation of the LARR Act 2013 should be published by the government.

Other recommendations:
If land remained unused for five years after it was acquired for a project, it should be returned to its original owner under the provisions outlined in the LARR Act 2013 Act. But in most cases, it was included in the land banks held by states. Hence, the government should ensure the return of the land to the original land holder from the land bank.

The Ministry of Environment’s proposal for the creation of land banks as afforestation plantations offered in compensation of forest land taken over for projects was likely to create adverse conditions for tribals. Such land banks in tribal areas, consisting mostly of land used for cultivation and community forest lands, would further deprive the tribals of their land rights. The creation of these land banks in tribal areas violated the FRA Act, Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) and the constitutional rights of tribal people. They also create the possibility of land being taken over by unscrupulous elements.

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