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UPDATE: Protests to defend land, water in Lakhimpur, India

The National Alliance of People’s Movements notes that for many years the Government of India has been trying to bring in a Land Acquisition Act but that mass resistance has stopped that from happening. The NAPM highlights that under such legislation, the “Government will acquire land for private projects and for public private partnerships.” Indian social activist and Right Livelihood Award recipient Medha Patkar, who is leading the struggle, says, “We believe government must not have any such role, it can’t transfer the most valuable livelihood resources such as land, water to the profiteering bodies in the garb of ‘public interest’ and ‘public purpose’.”

NAPM organizer (and Blue Planet Project organizer) Madhuresh Kumar shares this photo from a protest (which took place today) in Lakhimpur, which is located about 425 kilometres east of New Delhi. The protest was organized by the National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers, a fraternal organization of NAPM. Madhuresh explains, “They are demanding implementation of the Forest Rights Act, which entitles rights to land to Tribals and other forest dwelling communities. The Land Acquisition Act proposes to take away land which will be given by the Forest Rights Act.”

As of this past March, Canada had completed three rounds of talks with India for a free trade agreement (more specifically a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, or CEPA). In his speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2012, Stephen Harper stated, “We will work to complete negotiations on a free-trade agreement with India in 2013.” In November 2009, Harper said, “India’s rapidly growing economy and its commitment to expand its investment regime will provide significant opportunities for investors in a variety of sectors, including infrastructure, education, life sciences, science and technology and natural resources among many others.” For more on the Canada-India free trade deal, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?p=9420, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=12821 and http://canadians.org/blog/?p=14230.