The leaders of Communist Party of India (Marxist) met Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of UPA and submitted the following letter regarding the ongoing agitation for land distribution in Andhra Pradesh. We are releasing it to the press for publication.
Dear Madam Sonia Gandhiji,
We wish to draw your notice to certain aspects of the current movement going on in Andhra Pradesh on the land issue. Instead of resolving these issues, the state government has, unfortunately, resorted to unprecedented repression. In the last fifteen days, over 8,000 people have been arrested, false cases registered against over 1,000 people who are jailed. Even the CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and Andhra Pradesh state secretary, B. V. Raghavulu, has been booked under several non-bailable charges. Severe lathicharges have become the order of the day with thousands being injured.
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 loosing 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.
When we, from the CPI(M), had raised this issue, the state government countered with a statement 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 later 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. I am sure, you would agree that had state government abided the Court’s order, then 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 2005 July 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.
These are the issues on which the current agitation is taking place in the state.
We are seeking your intervention as the Chairperson of the United People’s Alliance and as the President of the Congress party. 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. We are bringing this issues to your notice with the hope that you will take the necessary steps in urging the Congress party state government in Andhra Pradesh to fulfil the election promises and to restrain them from unleashing brutal repression against the very same poor people who were instrumental in bringing a Congress government in the state.
Brinda Karat, MP (Rs), Member, Polit Bureau, CPI(M)
P. Madhu, MP (RS), Member, Central Committee, CPI(M)
V. Srinivasa Rao, Member, Central Secretariat, CPI(M)