Conflicts over displacement and land grabbing by the government and corporates are all over the news today. But few realise that these conflicts are not just about "better rehabilitation" or "people's discontent" - most of these large projects are in fact illegal and in direct violation of the law.
Both the UPA and the BJP governments have done their damnedest to make it possible to seize forest land for corporate and government projects - even where people have rights. A timeline of developments.
For a long time, it was assumed that forest land was the easiest land to take over for companies, industries and "development" projects. Now, under the Forest Rights Act, takeover of land requires the consent of the local communities and the recognition of their rights. This is a huge step forward for democracy. But the government is not complying with the law.
The POSCO project, often touted as India's "largest foreign investment", involves a captive iron ore mine, a steel plant and a private port. The current conflict is mainly in the proposed steel plant area, for which POSCO has sought 4,004 acres of land (of which about 3,100 are forest land). The people of the area are opposing the project and have been continuously protesting since 2005, when the MoU was signed. Yet the Environment Ministry has gone ahead and granted illegal clearance for the project.