Subject: Toba Tek Singh, Netaji and Singur Nandigram
Date: Saturday 17th February 2007 18:30:40 UTC (over 9 years ago)
Date: Saturday 17th February 2007 18:30:40 UTC (over 9 years ago)
Toba Tek Singh, Netaji and Singur - Nandigram Palash Biswas (Contact: Palash Biswas, C/O Mrs Arati Roy, Gosto Kanan,Sodepur, Kolkata- 700110, India. Phone: 91-33-25659551) Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-55) was the leading Urdu short-story writer of the twentieth century. He was born in Samrala in the Ludhiana district of Punjab. He worked for All India Radio during World War II and was a successful screenwriter in Bombay before moving to Pakistan at Partition. During his controversial two-decade career, Manto published twenty-two collections of stories, seven collections of radio plays, three collections of essays, and a novel. Toba Tek Singh Translated from the Urdu by Richard McGill Murphy (click here for a downloadable PDF formatted version of the original Urdu text) Two or three years after Partition, the governments of Pakistan and India decided to exchange lunatics in the same way that they had exchanged civilian prisoners. In other words, Muslim lunatics in Indian madhouses would be sent to Pakistan, while Hindu and Sikh lunatics in Pakistani madhouses would be handed over to India. I can't say whether this decision made sense or not. In any event, a date for the lunatic exchange was fixed after high level conferences on both sides of the border. All the details were carefully worked out. On the Indian side, Muslim lunatics with relatives in India would be allowed to stay. The remainder would be sent to the frontier. Here in Pakistan nearly all the Hindus and Sikhs were gone, so the question of retaining non-Muslim lunatics did not arise. All the Hindu and Sikh lunatics would be sent to the frontier in police custody. I don't know what happened over there. When news of the lunatic exchange reached the madhouse here in Lahore, however, it became an absorbing topic of discussion among the inmates. There was one Muslim lunatic who had read the newspaper Zamindar1 every day for twelve years. One of his friends asked him: "Maulvi Sahib! What is Pakistan?" After careful thought he replied: "It's a place in India where they make razors." Hearing this, his friend was content. One Sikh lunatic asked another Sikh: "Sardar ji, why are they sending us to India? We don't even speak the language." "I understand the Indian language," the other replied, smiling. "Indians are devilish people who strut around haughtily," he added. While bathing, a Muslim lunatic shouted "Long live Pakistan!" with such vigor that he slipped on the floor and knocked himself out. One lunatic got so involved in this India/Pakistan question that he became even crazier. One day he climbed a tree and sat on one of its branches for two hours, lecturing without pause on the complex issues of Partition. When the guards told him to come down, he climbed higher. When they tried to frighten him with threats, he replied: "I will live neither in India nor in Pakistan. I'll live in this tree right here!" With much difficulty, they eventually coaxed him down. When he reached the ground he wept and embraced his Hindu and Sikh friends, distraught at the idea that they would leave him and go to India. One man held an M.S. degree and had been a radio engineer. He kept apart from the other inmates, and spent all his time walking silently up and down a particular footpath in the garden. After hearing about the exchange, however, he turned in his clothes and ran naked all over the grounds. There was one fat Muslim lunatic from Chiniot who had been an enthusiastic Muslim League activist. He used to wash fifteen or sixteen times a day, but abandoned the habit overnight. His name was Mohammed Ali. One day he announced that he was the Qaid-e-Azem, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Seeing this, a Sikh lunatic declared himself to be Master Tara Singh. Blood would have flowed, except that both were reclassified as dangerous lunatics and confined to separate quarters. There was also a young Hindu lawyer from Lahore who had gone mad over an unhappy love affair. He was distressed to hear that Amritsar was now in India, because his beloved was a Hindu girl from that city. Although she had rejected him, he had not forgotten her after losing his mind. For this reason he cursed the Muslim leaders who had split India into two parts, so that his beloved remained Indian while he became Pakistani. When news of the exchange reached the madhouse, several lunatics tried to comfort the lawyer by telling him that he would be sent to India, where his beloved lived. But he didn't want to leave Lahore, fearing that his practice would not thrive in Amritsar. In the European Ward there were two Anglo-Indian lunatics. They were very worried to hear that the English had left after granting independence to India. In hushed tones, they spent hours discussing how this would affect their situation in the madhouse. Would the European Ward remain, or would it disappear? Would they be served English breakfasts? What, would they be forced to eat poisonous bloody Indian chapattis instead of bread? One Sikh had been an inmate for fifteen years. He spoke a strange language of his own, constantly repeating this nonsensical phrase: "Upri gur gur di annexe di be-dhiyan o mung di daal of di lalteen."2 He never slept. According to the guards, he hadn't slept a wink in fifteen years. Occasionally, however, he would rest by propping himself against a wall. His feet and ankles had become swollen from standing all the time, but in spite of these physical problems he refused to lie down and rest. He would listen with great concentration whenever there was discussion of India, Pakistan and the forthcoming lunatic exchange. Asked for his opinion, he would reply with great seriousness: "Upri gur gur di annexe di be-dhiyana di mung di daal of di Pakistan gornament." There were also some lunatics who weren't really crazy. Most of these inmates were murderers whose families had bribed the madhouse officials to have them committed in order to save them from the hangman's noose. These inmates understood something of why India had been divided, and they had heard of Pakistan. But they weren't all that well informed. The newspapers didn't tell them a great deal, and the illiterate guards who looked after them weren't much help either. All they knew was that there was a man named Mohammed Ali Jinnah, whom people called the Qaid-e-Azem. He had made a separate country for the Muslims, called Pakistan. They had no idea where it was, or what its boundaries might be. This is why all the lunatics who hadn't entirely lost their senses were perplexed as to whether they were in Pakistan or India. If they were in India, then where was Pakistan? If they were in Pakistan, then how was it that the place where they lived had until recently been known as India? Later he replaced "of di Pakistan gornament" with "of di Toba Tek Singh gornament." He also started asking the other inmates where Toba Tek Singh was, and to which country it belonged. But nobody knew whether it was in Pakistan or India. When they argued the question they only became more confused. After all, Sialkot had once been in India, but was apparently now in Pakistan. Who knew whether Lahore, which was now in Pakistan, might not go over to India tomorrow? Or whether all of India might become Pakistan? And was there any guarantee that both Pakistan and India would not one day vanish altogether? This Sikh lunatic's hair was unkempt and thin. Because he washed so rarely, his hair and beard had matted together, giving him a frightening appearance. But he was a harmless fellow. In fifteen years, he had never fought with anyone. The attendants knew only that he owned land in Toba Tek Singh district. Having been a prosperous landlord, he suddenly lost his mind. So his relatives bound him with heavy chains and sent him off to the madhouse. His family used to visit him once a month. After making sure that he was in good health, they would go away again. These family visits continued for many years, but they stopped when the India/Pakistan troubles began. This lunatic's name was Bashan Singh, but everyone called him Toba Tek Singh. Although he had very little sense of time, he seemed to know when his relatives were coming to visit. He would tell the officer in charge that his visit was impending. On the day itself he would wash his body thoroughly and comb and oil his hair. Then he would put on his best clothes and go to meet his relatives. If they asked him any question he would either remain silent or say: "Upri gur gur di annexe di be-dhiyana di mung di daal of di laaltein." Bashan Singh had a fifteen-year-old daughter who grew by a finger's height every month. He didn't recognize her when she came to visit him. As a small child, she used to cry whenever she saw her father. She continued to cry now that she was older. When the Partition problems began, Bashan Singh started asking the other lunatics about Toba Tek Singh. Since he never got a satisfactory answer, his concern deepened day by day. Then his relatives stopped visiting him. Formerly he could predict their arrival, but now it was as though the voice inside him had been silenced. He very much wanted to see those people, who spoke to him sympathetically and brought gifts of flowers, sweets and clothing. Surely they could tell him whether Toba Tek Singh was in Pakistan or India. After all, he was under the impression that they came from Toba Tek Singh, where his land was. ... A few days before the day of the exchange, one of Bashan Singh's Muslim friends came to visit from Toba Tek Singh. This man had never visited the madhouse before. Seeing him, Bashan Singh turned abruptly and started walking away. But the guard stopped him. "He's come to visit you. It's your friend Fazluddin," the guard said. Glancing at Fazluddin, Bashan Singh muttered a bit. Fazluddin advanced and took him by the elbow. "I've been planning to visit you for ages, but I haven't had the time until now," he said. "All your relatives have gone safely to India. I helped them as much as I could. Your daughter Rup Kur . . ." Bashan Singh seemed to remember something. "Daughter Rup Kur," he said. Fazluddin hesitated, and then replied: "Yes, she's . . . she's also fine. She left with them." Bashan Singh said nothing. Fazluddin continued: "They asked me to make sure you were all right. Now I hear that you're going to India. Give my salaams to brother Balbir Singh and brother Wadhada Singh. And to sister Imrat Kur also . . . Tell brother Balbir Singh that I'm doing fine. One of the two brown cows that he left has calved. The other one calved also, but it died after six days. And . . . and say that if there's anything else I can do for them, I'm always ready. And I've brought you some sweets." Bashan Singh handed the package over to the guard. "Where is Toba Tek Singh?" he asked. Fazluddin was taken aback. "Toba Tek Singh? Where is it? It's where it's always been," he replied. "In Pakistan or in India?" Bashan Singh persisted. Fazluddin became flustered. "It's in India. No no, Pakistan." Bashan Singh walked away, muttering: "Upar di gur gur di annexe di dhiyana di mung di daal of di Pakistan and Hindustan of di dar fatay mun!" Finally all the preparations for the exchange were complete. The lists of all the lunatics to be transferred were finalized, and the date for the exchange itself was fixed..... Most of the lunatics were opposed to the exchange. They didn't understand why they should be uprooted and sent to some unknown place. Some, only half-mad, started shouting "Long live Pakistan!" Two or three brawls erupted between Sikh and Muslim lunatics who became enraged when they heard the slogans. When Bashan Singh's turn came to be entered in the register, he spoke to the official in charge. "Where is Toba Tek Singh?" he asked. "Is it in Pakistan or India?" The official laughed. "It's in Pakistan," he replied. Hearing this, Bashan Singh leapt back and ran to where his remaining companions stood waiting. The Pakistani guards caught him and tried to bring him back to the crossing point, but he refused to go. "Toba Tek Singh is here!" he cried. Then he started raving at top volume: "Upar di gur gur di annexe di be-dhiyana mang di daal of di Toba Tek Singh and Pakistan!" The officials tried to convince him that Toba Tek Singh was now in India. If by some chance it wasn't they would send it there directly, they said. But he wouldn't listen. Because he was harmless, the guards let him stand right where he was while they got on with their work. He was quiet all night, but just before sunrise he screamed. Officials came running from all sides. After fifteen years on his feet, he was lying face down on the ground. India was on one side, behind a barbed wire fence. Pakistan was on the other side, behind another fence. Toba Tek Singh lay in the middle, on a piece of land that had no name. Fresh Violence Fresh violence today erupted at the trouble-torn Nandigram block-I in West Bengal's East Midnapore district today as many houses were set ablaze by mobs."There were reports of clashes at Nandigram since last night and this morning. Some houses were set on fire there," IGP (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia told reporters in Kolkata.Though there was no information about the arsonists, he said.Nandigram has been witnessing sporadic clashes between supporters of the CPI-M and the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee, which is spearheading the agitation against land acquisition for a SEZ there.Meanwhile,with the CPI(M) struggling to convince farmers in West Bengal to accept acquisition of agricultural land for industry, its peasant wing, the Krishak Sabha, has suggested to the Left Front government to offer a better compensation package to share-croppers to contain the raging controversy.The registered share-croppers should be given a better compensation including crop compensation for a year besides the compensation they have been paid, Dibakar Das, a Krishak Sabha leader at Singur said.The state government has already acquired a total of 997 acres at Singur for the Tata Motors' small car project evoking violent protests from farmers, mainly share-croppers and landless labourers.The share-croppers, affected by the land acquisition at Singur, have been given 25 per cent of the market value of the land, besides 10 per cent solatium and 12.5 per cent interest, by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation. Ilyas Muhammad, CPI MLA from Nandigram, a partner in the ruling Left Front, said that 90 per cent of the people were against land acquisition there. (Agencies) Panic gripped Talpatti, Bhangabera localities of Nandigram last night, as bombs were hurled at random, even as several village roads remained dug up during the night, in a bid to prevent entry of "outsiders". BUPC senior member Abu Taher said bamboo planks were put on dug up roads at Hazrakata, Chowringheebazar and several other spots towards Sonachura during daytime to enable students to attend schools, but the planks were being removed during night hours as they were still wary about entry of outsiders "to foment trouble". Sonachura witnessed the most violent clash in Nandigram on the night of January seven which claimed six lives.Police sources said they were looking into the charges made by villagers, including members of Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh committee that some miscreants hurled the bombs from the side of neighbouring Khejuri. Two days back, an all-party meeting had resolved to restore peace in the area. A senior member of the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC), agitating against farm land acquisition for the proposed SEZ, alleged that the bombs were hurled from the side of Khejuri towards Nandigram and CPI(M)-sheltered miscreants were behind it.District Congress Working President Manik Bhowmik also alleged that bombs were being hurled at some localities in Nandigram and CPI(M) was harbouring those behind the attack.However, East Midnapore CPI(M) leadership rubbished the charge and alleged that the Trinamool Congress and others were trying to create unrest in the area. Singur issue: Mamata makes another appeal to Buddhadeb Kamarkundu (WB), Feb. 17 (PTI): Making a "last appeal" to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today told the West Bengal government to halt work on the boundary wall for the Tata small car project in Singur and sit for talks. "I have made repeated appeals for the return of the forcibly acquired farmland. This is my last appeal to the government. They should stop work on the boundary wall and sit for discussion," Banerjee said referring to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's offer of talks. "In a democracy there is no harm in admitting mistakes and the Chief Minister should announce that forcibly acquired land will be returned to pave the way for talks. As Railway minister I had also made some mistakes," she said. Addressing a meeting for the first time here at Singur proper in Hooghly district after prohibitory orders were quashed by the Calcutta High Court, she said "If the government does not respond to our appeal, they will be responsible for the consequences. We don't want violence, but it cannot be a one way affair." She warned that the government might guard the boundary wall of the Tata project, but would not be able to save it. "It will crumble in a day." Calling upon farmers who had opposed the acquisition of their land, not to give consent and accept compensation cheques, she said "You should sit inside the boundary wall and cook there." Warning the administration against re-imposition of prohibitory orders, the TC chief warned that the government would be responsbile for the consequence. The prohibitory order at Singur was struck down as an abuse of power by the administration on February 14 by the High Court. Without naming the Tatas, she said it was a shame that in the interest of a "multi-billionaire", people at Singur did not have the freedom to assemble due to promulgation of Section 144 CrPC for 75 days. Challenging the Chief Minister's statement that 96 per cent of the people there had given consent for land acquisition, Banerjee claimed farmers had not given consent for acquisition of 400 acre of the 997 acre acquired. "If 96 per cent had given consent, why was prohibitory orders clamped and why were the police deployed to guard the project site ?" she asked and asserted that the Tatas would not be able to build their car plant at Singur. "As long I am alive, I will not back out and ensure that you get back land forcibly acquired," she said while assuring the people of Singur that she would be with them in their fight. In an indirect appeal to the Congress, the TC chief said "Let us put up a united fight. It is not a political movement, but a fight to safeguard the interest of farmers." No information on Netaji: RAW Officially it is confirmed that Netaji died on 18th August 1945 in a plane crash over Taiwan while flying to Tokyo. But his body was never recovered. This led to many theories regarding his possible survival. One theory says that Netaji actually died in Siberia, while in Soviet captivity. Many committees have been set up from time to time by the Government of India to probe into his death. In May 1956, Shah Nawaz Committee was set up. A four member team of this committee visited Japan to probe into the circumstances of Netaji's alleged death. Justice Mukherjee Commission was set up from 1999-2005. This committee approached Taiwan government for information regarding Netaji's death. It submitted its report on 8th November, 2005. The report was tabled in Parliament on 17th May, 2006. The report says that Netaji did not die in the plane crash and the ashes at Renkoji temple in Tokyo are not his. However the Indian government rejected the findings of the commission. In 1992 Netaji was awarded the The Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award posthumously. It was later withdrawn after a Supreme Court directive. A Public Interest Litigation was filed in the Supreme Court against the posthumous nature of the award. Since there was no conclusive evidence regarding Netaji's death, this invalidated the posthumous award. In its first-ever response to an unofficial body, the country's premier external intelligence agency Research and Analysis wing has informed 'Mission Netaji' that it was not holding any information on Subhas Chandra Bose.Mission Netaji is conducting its own investigation into the mysterious disappearance of the hero and moving various government agencies for information on the matter. It had requested the RAW under the Right To Information Act for disclosure of any information that it might hold on the issue."I am directed to inform you... that the RAW does not have any information pertaining to Netaji. As such no list as requested by you .. can be provided," Under Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat P N Ranjit Kumar told Mission Netaji's Anuj Dhar in a letter dated January 19.Kumar also reminded Dhar that the RAW was not obliged to provide any information under the RTI Act.Dhar, however, is skeptical about RAW's response. "In 2001, the then Home Secretary Kamal Pande filed an affidavit before the Mukherjee Commission (which was probing Netaji's mysterious disappearance). This affidavit listed out several Top Secret/Secret records whose disclosure was likely to evoke widespread reactions and harm India's relations with friendly countries," Dhar said.Dhar said among these records some are with RAW. It was an 'Under Office' note under the identification number 11/1/94-IC-2829 dated March 25, 1994, concerning certain articles based on classified KGB records published in a Russian journal. Dhar claimed that the RAW had initially informed Mission Netaji that it had no record or files relating to the alleged disappearance of Netaji as the organisation was formed on September 21, 1968."And now, P N Ranjit Kumar has made a sweeping statement that RAW does not have any information pertaining to Netaji and that RAW is under no obligation to spill the beans. But it has no licence to mislead either," Dhar said. The main reason behind Netaji going to Europe was to join hands with the Indian soldiers in the British Indian Army who were made prisoners of war. He was of the opinion that loyalty of the Indian soldiers to the Raj should be tilted towards their motherland than the British. He believed this would be a crucial part in the last phase of the freedom movement. Netaji joined hands with the Axis powers. They assured him of military and other help to fight the British. He struck alliance with both Japan and Germany. Reports say that he was last seen near Keil canal in Germany in 1943. He undertook the most hazardous journey covering thousands of miles. He went to the Atlantic Ocean, the Middle East, Madagascar and the Indian Ocean. He formed the Indian National Army and the Azad Hind Government was declared on the 21st of October 1943. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands were freed from the British by the INA. It was named as the Swaraj and Shaheed islands. On the historic day, March 18, 1944, INA crossed the Burmese border to reach Manipur. Free India's banner was raised amidst slogans of `Jai Hind.' But rain played a spoilsport and the units had to fall back. On August 17, 1945 he ordered INA that Delhi was still their goal. Netaji then wanted to go to Russia to get Soviet help to fight the British. But fate had other things in store for him. It is said that the plane in which he was flying crashed in Taipei on August 18, 1945. With it came the end of a hero who truly lived for his motherland. When Netaji was 15 he wrote to his mother "India is God's beloved land." Thirty three years later, towards the end of his known life he told the countrymen "never for a moment falter in your faith in India's destiny. There is no power on earth that can keep India enslaved. India shall be free and before long." State Pulse: West Bengal: SEZ plan on hold West Bengal Chief Minister has gone on record to say that he would not set up any SEZ "if that is what the Left parties want"- Insaf All is not well with the industrialization model of the Left Front Government in West Bengal, headed by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee of the CPM. It is not only the Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Bannerjee, who has been breathing fire against the acquisition of farmlands for industries, but also the Left allies CPI, RSP and Forward Block. They are dead against the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) projects. After a resolute fight to bring the Tata Motors at Singur, Bhattacharjee is showing signs of cracking and has gone on record to say that he would not set up any SEZ "if that is what the Left parties want". After a CPM Politburo meeting at Kolkata over the week-end, General Secretary Prakash Karat announced that all SEZs, including the one at Nandigram have been put on hold. However, the Singur project of Tatas is on, notwithstanding Mamata's threat to continue the stir against it. Farmer's suicides: 6 in 3 days Even though the suicide spree of the cash-starved farmers in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region continues; with six of them ending their lives in three days last week, not more than 10 per cent of the promised relief is reaching the sufferers. According to Maharashtra's Finance Minister Jayant Patil, a paltry sum of Rs.248 crore has been released by the Centre out of the relief package of Rs.3,750 crore, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced in July last. Patil has now disclosed that most of the Centre's share has been earmarked to complete the pending irrigation projects in the area, with the stated objective of increasing agriculture productivity in the suicide belt. This has been communicated to the Planning Commission by the State Government last week. The Commission was told that only 17.8 per cent of the net sown area in the State has access to irrigation, as against the national average of 38 per cent. Nandigram makes Bengal look at unlocking land from sick industry Jayanth JacobPosted online: Saturday, February 17, 2007 at 0000 hrs Print Email NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 16: After Singur and Nandigram, the CPI(M) is looking at a different route to industrialisation. With the acquisition of agricultural land becoming increasingly tough, the government in West Bengal is exploring the option of making use of the land of closed and sick industries. Tech training to sewing: 3,000 from Singur families who gave land join govt, Tata schemes Since such plots are not large, the government plans to use them for small and medium enterprises (SME). According to sources, the government has plans to start hundred such SMEs across the state. Though some of the plots are privately owned or caught in legal wrangles, the CPI(M) hopes to reach a consensus— and get the go- ahead from allies and workers of these units. Party leaders say even the new investors would benefit from the existing infrastructure since the land is available in the already industrialised areas like Kolkata, North and South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly and parts of Bardhaman district. A survey undertaken by Webcon, a consultant of the West Bengal government, which surveyed 500 large and medium closed, sick or loss- makking units had found that "substantial land amounting to 41, 078.58" acres was locked in such industries. The Board for Industrial & Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) can also throw up more hurdles. If an industry can't be revived, a cell is created to oversee the sale of land and company assets through auction. "Land of closed units for industrialization, as things stand now, can't be the only solution. But we have to look at all the options since investors can go elsewhere," a senior CPM leader said. An urgent need: CPI (M) Special Correspondent Industrialisation not at the cost of land reform programme NEW DELHI: Ahead of its Polit Bureau meeting this weekend, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has pointed out that industrialisation was given foremost priority in the electoral agenda of the Left Front in the West Bengal Assembly elections last year. Arguing that industrialisation of the State has become an "urgent necessity", the party has - in an article posted on its website - stated that "this drive towards industrialisation will not be at the cost of the land reform programme and further efforts towards improving agriculture". The article has been written as a rebuttal of the interim report of the Citizens Committee on Singur and Nandigram, which was released on January 29. After putting up a point-by-point defence of its position on land acquisition in Singur for the Tata car project and Nandigram for setting up a Special Economic Zone, the CPI (M) described the fact-finding team as "politically-driven" and its report made a "travesty of truth". On the two projects which will come up for discussion at the Polit Bureau meeting, the CPI (M) position is that the rehabilitation of the people whose livelihood will be affected as a result of such conversion is a critical issue. "The State Government has made it abundantly clear that no land will be acquired without adequate consultation and without ensuring an improved alternative livelihood security for the affected people.'' Advocating a "more vigorous push towards industrialisation of the State" since agriculture in West Bengal cannot escape the adverse effects of the "overall anti-people policy orientation of the Central Government", the CPI(M) counter dwells on the fact that the Left Front articulated its plans on industrialisation clearly during the elections. Scrap SEZ Act: civil society groups It violates right to life : plea to Pranab NEW DELHI: Even as local protests against "forcible acquisition" of agricultural land for creation of SEZs in Punjab, West Bengal and Maharashtra continue, civil society groups are demanding the repeal of the "anti-democratic and unconstitutional" Special Economic Zones Act, 2005. The Act violates the right to life and livelihood of people, who are being forcibly displaced for implementation of projects, says a petition addressed by over 100 civil society groups and individuals to Pranab Mukherjee, chairman of the Empowered Group of Ministers on SEZs. They have sought cancellation of the approved and notified SEZs and return of land. Talks should be held with people's groups, communities and panchayat representatives to seek their opinion on strengthening local economies. A critique enclosed with the petition raises issues of land-based livelihood displaced by the SEZs, environmental concerns and labour exploitation. Land grabbing On the question of land grabbing, the petition says the principle of ``eminent domain,'' which is the basis of the Land Acquisition Act (1894), is being misused and even given priority over the principles in the 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution that give primacy to gram sabhas as autonomous decision-making entities. The status of ``deemed foreign territory'' being granted to the SEZs will further undermine the sovereignty of local governance systems. However, what is really going to challenge the governance system is the concentration of power in the hands of the Development Commissioner at the State level and in the Board of Approvals at the Centre, says the petition. Ironically, the SEZs are being granted approvals, with no single mention of studies being carried out on social environment impact and damage. India is already going through a crisis in terms of water scarcity as well as loss of forests and biodiversity. The point is that in the current framework of economic development the costs of loss of forest and other common lands, large scale exploitation of water resources, coastal land, and environmental pollution are not even being computed.'' It has been repeatedly highlighted that the very legislative framework of SEZs is problematic, making it a draconian Act that promotes large scale privatisation and monopoly of resources in the hands of a few private developers at huge costs to the State exchequer as well as the economy and environment. The Board of Approvals, under the Commerce Ministry, has already granted formal approval for 237 projects, of which 63 have been notified, while hundreds are still awaiting approval, says the petition. The memorandum has been endorsed by eminent individuals, farmers, Dalits, Adivasis, fisherworker and women's rights groups, non- governmental organisations, researchers and intellectuals.
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