People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 17, 2007
AP Land Issues: CPI(M) Seeks Sonia Gandhi’s Intervention
THE CPI(M) has sought the political intervention of UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the ongoing land struggle in Andhra Pradesh. It has appealed her to urge her party’s state government to fulfil the election promises and to restrain it from unleashing brutal repression against the poor people struggling to secure a house site or land for agriculture.
A delegation of CPI(M) leaders led by Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat met Sonia Gandhi on May 31, 2007 and made this appeal. CPI(M) central secretariat member V Sreenivasa Rao and central committee member and MP P Madhu were the other members of the delegation. They submitted a detailed memorandum to her on this issue.
Later addressing the media at Party headquarters, the CPI(M) leaders said that Sonia Gandhi assured to look into the issue and take necessary action. They reminded that both the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme and the Manifesto of the Congress party had promised finding solutions to the land question and the consequent development of the poor, dalits, tribals etc. But the state government was going on a completely opposite track – trying to give off those lands distributed earlier to dalits to the land mafia and private real estate firms now. And when CPI(M) has taken the lead in preventing this and seeking house sites for the poor and land for the landless, the state government has unleashed severe repression. It was told in the press conference that eight district secretaries of the Party are currently lodged in jail. False cases have been booked against Party leaders indiscriminately. Even Polit Bureau member and state secretary of the Party B V Raghavulu has not been spared and a non-bailable land grabbing case has been slapped against him.
The CPI(M) leaders sought Sonia Gandhi’s intervention for an immediate end to this state of affairs. They warned that the agitation will be further intensified if the state government refuses to concede the genuine demands and continues on its repression spree.
The memorandum said that in the last fifteen days, over 8,000 people have been arrested and false cases were registered on over 1,000 people who are jailed. Since 1969, the AP state government claimed 42 lakh acres of land assigned to dalits and tribal people. The Assignment Act 9/77 mandates the government to protect the assignees from losing their land as a result of manoeuvres and misdeeds by influential people. That such deprivation of the assigned land has been taking place over the years is a known fact. Even the chief minister has recently publicly declared some of the assigned lands were in possession of his family. This land, however, has not yet been transferred to the original beneficiaries. To make matters worse, the government amended the Assignment Act which favoured the legalisation of the illegal possession of these lands by influential sections. The accompanying guidelines of this amendment, if enforced, will ensure that those illegally occupying these lands will become the legal owners. Recently on March 24, 2007, Andhra Pradesh government issued a notification for utilising such lands for “public purposes” in chief minister’s native district, Kadapa. The state government is diluting the Acts that are favouring the poor. The state government claimed that since coming to power, they have distributed 4 lakh acres to the poor. In reality, the government granted pattas to those who are already beneficiaries of the assigned land. Thus, this move was nothing but mere tokenism.
Recently, in the name of economic development and industrialisation, the state government is acquiring lands from the poor. Assigned land has been singularly targeted in order to avoid the payment of compensation for such land acquisition. The state government had refused payment of compensation on the grounds that the acquired lands were assigned by the government itself in the first instance. When some of those who have lost their land and consequently their livelihood moved the Courts, the latter directed the state government to pay full compensation on par with others to assignee landholders. Instead of accepting this judgement, the state government moved the Supreme Court and obtained a stay. Had the state government abided the Court’s order, a large number of poor people would have derived some benefits.
In addition to these issues, the CPI(M) has been raising the issue of land for residential purposes in both urban and rural areas. Given the Real Estate prices currently, apart from the poor, even the middle classes are unable to acquire a home. Recognising this, the Congress party in its election manifesto had promised to provide housing facilities to all those who are in need. The CPI(M) raised this issue in July 2005 and an agreement was reached with the government. This, however, has not been implemented till date.
Even earlier, in December 2004, in response to a request from the Left parties to resolve these issues connected with land, the state government constituted a committee with three ministers and some officials. The committee had submitted its report nearly one and a half years ago. This was neither placed in the state Assembly nor discussed in any all-party meeting. However, a few days ago, the government under pressure has made these recommendations public stating that they are being studied and not implemented. It is, therefore, reasonably concluded by many that the recommendations of this committee run against the interests of influential sections. The memorandum urged Sonia Gandhi to intervene on these issues on which the current agitation is taking place in the state. (INN)