There is growing resistance, especially among the poorest communities of Gujarat, to theincreasingly aggressive and insensitive land acquisition policies pursued by the State Government.In what amounts to a massive transfer of peoples' resources to the powerful industrial sector, theState is acquiring agricultural and community pastoral lands and water resources, and handing themover to private industries and public sector undertakings at nominal prices.The losers in this transaction are farmers whose lands are acquired after aggressive persuasion bythe State, and landless peoples who are dependent on common land and water resources for raisinglivestock and other livelihood options. The latter receive no compensation and have no avenues toseek redressal for the injustice done to them in the confiscation of their historical rights over thesecommunity resources.Additionally, there are several communities across the State that face the risk of severe, even fatal,degradation to their health and natural resources due to unchecked pollution by certain industriesand power plants. Again, the damage will have greatest impact on women and marginalizedcommunities and any compensation or mitigation is unlikely.
To address the concerns of the affected peoples, a
Citizens' Public Hearing was held inAhmedabad, Gujarat on the 7th of February 2010
. A panel consisting of eminent citizens, whohave been engaged in issues of justice and peace, heard and documented the adverse impacts of a
of public and private sector projects.
The core objectives of this exercise were to communicate to the State that the beneficiaries of development should first be the most vulnerable sections of society. Critical examination must becarried out on any project that impoverishes, or puts at risk, the lives and livelihoods of the poor.
Process of the Public Hearing
Panellists from multiple walks of life were invited. The eminent panellists included Chairperson of the Gandhi Peace Foundation Ms. Radha Bhatt, Member of the Planning Commission Dr. SyedaHameed, Supreme Court Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh, Vice-Chancellor of the GujaratVidyapeeth University, Dr. Sudarshan Iyengar and eminent physicist Dr. Surendra Gadekar.Testimonials were heard from each of the movements, along with a short video shot at site byfilmmaker Raju Barot. Written testimonials were also collected from the people. The panellistssummarized their findings at the end of the event at a press conference. The issues addressed at thepublic hearing are listed below:
Handover of Village Common Resources without Due Consultations with Gram Sabha
Forced Land Acquisition of Private Agricultural Lands
Lack of Transparency/Local Consultations/Informed Consent
Sham Public Hearings
Blatant Violations of Environmental Laws/Court Judgements
Intimidation of Residents by Private “Security” Agencies and Police
Diversion and Destruction of Productive Agricultural LandWhile every effort was done to ensure the participation of government representatives, the stateGovernment chose not to send representatives to the public hearing highlighting the evasivemethods it engages in participatory consultation process.