Central Government: Stop Playing Games with People's Lives sign now

To:
Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India
New Delhi

Sub: Demand that Central government stop playing double games with
people's lives in POSCO and other large projects; enforce laws
relating to people's rights


Dear Dr. Singh

As concerned citizens of this country, we are appalled at the callous
and cynical manner in which the Central government is seeking to
exploit people's struggles for short term political gain. Rather than
enforce the law as it stands, the government is playing both sides of
the fence. On the one hand it violates the law to favour companies, and
on the other it seeks electoral mileage by loud declarations of
sympathy when people rise to fight these illegalities.

We refer to the recent statements by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh
and by other leaders in connection with the POSCO project in Orissa,
wherein the Minister, for instance, has asked the State government to
follow "democratic practices" and engage in "dialogue and discussion."
But, under the Forest Rights Act, it was the Environment Ministry's
duty to engage in precisely such "democratic practices" before it
handed over forest land to POSCO. Meanwhile, long before any process of
any kind was complete, you and your office, as well as the Steel
Ministry, were making public commitments to POSCO and the South Korean
government that the project will be carried out. If the Central
government and the ruling party really believe in democracy and
dialogue, why have they systematically violated required democratic
procedures when handing over land - and forest land in particular - in
the first place?

Under the law, forest land cannot be taken until people's rights over
it are fully recorded, and the government must respect forest dwellers'
power to protect and manage their forests. On July 30, 2009, the
Ministry itself recognised this when it issued an order explicitly
stating that no clearance for diversion of forest land will be given
without a gram sabha resolution - i.e. a majority vote at an assembly
of the village - that their rights have been respected and that they
consent to the takeover. Yet the Ministry broke the law and gave
clearance to the POSCO project without a single majority resolution
from any village in the area. Indeed, the Minister questioned the
majority resolutions actually passed against the project and asked for
action against the elected sarpanch, while ignoring the fact that his
State government and the Ministry were the ones actually breaking the
law.

The same gross illegality is happening in projects across the country.
Till date there has not been a single case known of a project being
rejected on the basis of a gram sabha resolution - a basic "democratic
practice" that the Minister is now advertising. The Minister meanwhile
stated in an interview on June 5th that he plans to amend this order
because it has become too difficult for the Ministry to comply with the
law.

Now, as children, women and men form human barricades to save their
lands from POSCO, the very same Minister who violated every tenet of
both law and democracy declares that democracy should be respected.
Will your government wait, as it did in Sompeta, Srikakulam and
elsewhere, for people to die before it remembers its legal duties? Do
you seek another Bhatta Parsaul for electoral benefit? Your government
is playing a cynical game with people's lives to benefit corporate
profits on the one hand and it's "aam aadmi" image on the other.

We demand that your government immediately cancel all illegal forest
and environment clearances to projects, uphold the Forest Rights Act
and the democratic process it requires, and ensure that all land
acquisition in non-forest areas too is made legally and practically
subject to a democratic decision making process. The government cannot
be allowed to continue playing games with the blood of innocent people.

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Tommie ChanBy:
Transport and infrastructureIn:
Petition target:
Prime Minister of India

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