|Protest at Bhatta- Parsaul, UP|
The main problem at the moment is an outdated colonial act from 1894 called the Land Acquisition Act which permits the state to acquire [read grab] land from landholders by giving only a notice for 'public purpose'.
Under the current act the term 'public purpose' is so ambiguously defined that even a private company's profit purpose can fit into the definition of public purpose to the detriment of farmers and others like tribals whose livelihoods are tied to land. Recent land grabs have occurred for mines, residential townships for high income groups, commercial complexes, Special Economic Zones etc. The state has come to play the role of a land broker for private player rather than being a just arbiter of social conflicts and ensuring the well being of the poor.
The main demand by protesters is to bring in new legislation that will prevent acquisitions of land [especially fertile lands] unless absolutely necessary, provide just compensation and rehabilitation as well as set up processes for redress. Most importantly they demand that the definition of ‘public purpose’ should be within the scope of equitable rural development and that there should be considerable national debate over this term. The Indian government has promised to address these issues in the upcoming monsoon session of the parliament. Meanwhile, people continue to struggle for their rightful control over resources like land, water, and forests.
Here are some recent stories on land protests in North India:
1. Farmers threaten mass suicides against land acquisitions:http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-05-30/india/29599642_1_bhatta-parsaul-chandauli-farmers-farmers-over-land-acquisition
2. Excellent cover story by Down to Earth on the recent violent struggles in Uttar Pradesh http://www.downtoearth.org.in/node/33563