European Parliament vice-president Gerard Onesta has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in support of a nationwide land reform campaign, saying industrialization leads to “abusive exploitation”.
In the letter dated 26 January 2007, Onesta, one of 14 vice-presidents who looks after property law, wrote that “industrialization (and) eco-tourism ‘development’ encourages states to pursue their abusive exploitation of the land and forest resources.”
His letter reflects international support for the landless as tension mounts over controversial special economic zones and the people they may displace to make way for companies. A protest march, organized by domestic and international social activists, is planned for October.
“It is unacceptable that the search for economic profit is at the expense of sufficient food for the population and welfare,” Onesta’s letter stated. The European Parliament is the legislative arm of the European Union but has limited power even in Europe.
Singh’s spokesman, Sanjaya Baru, would not comment but did not deny receipt of the letter.
Onesta, a member of the French Green Party which has lobbied governments on diverse issues from land reform to smoke-free spaces, wrote that he “completely supports” the action of Ekta Parishad which, along with 35 similar grassroots groups working with marginal farmers and landless sharecroppers, plans a 350km march from Gwalior to Delhi in October.
Ekta Parishad is a member of the core group of the National Campaign Committee on Land that was formed to fight for people’s right to land. The group has called for setting up a national land authority to resolve conflicts related to acquisition of land for industrial development. It also seeks to speed up court cases to settle land dispute cases
In January 2007, in the wake of widespread protests over the acquisition of land for special economic zones and other industrial activities, the Prime Minister had said the government would implement a “humane” policy, and promised more effective systems of relief and rehabilitation for those displaced by development.
The National Rehabilitation Policy, as this is called, is yet to be finalized.
The letter, is also being seen in some quarters as something that interferes in India’s internal issues. “I feel that this is an internal matter for India. It is we who are fighting for the economic and civil rights of people and it has nothing to do with what the European Parliament says,” said Nilotpal Basu, a leader of the CPI(M), an ally of the ruling United Progressive Alliance government. He added that India’s foreign ministry must look into “why the European Parliament feels it can make these observations.”