Land Acquisition : An Emotive Issue

Indian nation and the nerve centre of the nation, Indian parliament are rocked by protests because of amended land acquisition bill of NDA government. All opposition parties, that included Congress, TMC, Left parties, Samajwadi party, Janata Dal United, Aam Aadmi Party and others are opposing the bill. Even, government allies Shiv Sena and Akali Dal are against the bill. Outside the parliament, Shri Anna Hazare demonstrated against the bill for two days, along with Medha Patkar, and Aam Admi Party MLAs lead by chief minister Mr. Arvind Kejriwal and deputy chief minister Mr. Manish Shisodia. Congress party has also initiated a massive protest rally to express their opposition.

Land acquisition bill was passed unanimously by parliament during last days of UPAII. No party wanted to oppose the bill, because that would make them anti-farmer before the general election. However, chief ministers of many states, including those ruled by congress party, have expressed reservation against the bill. According to many leaders, development will become next to impossible unless the land acquisition bill is amended. Many believed, the land acquisition bill was drafted by UPAII to appease farmers with an eye to national election. However, results of election suggests that farmers had an equivocal response to the bill.

Without going into details of amendment introduced by present government, it is important to understand that it is easy to fight for the bill than against. It is very easy to oppose the bill. Very difficult to support unless one wants to be projected as anti farmer and anti poor. I think government should try to convince the opposition. Otherwise Rajya Sabha may not agree. May be opposition will not agree even if it is discussed.  It is simple to be branded pro-farmer and pro-poor, and opposite position is equivalent to political suicide. 

Land is an emotive issue in India. Farmers do not want to give up land. Land can be source of livelihood only for one generation, unless family unit is small. In a big family, as is the case in India, land ownership becomes fragmented. Majority of land holding in India, some say 70 – 80%, is less than 0.6 hectares. . Left undertook land redistribution in Bengal. Why Bengal is so desperately poor and under developed? When left woke up to the needs of industrialisation, party was thrown out. 

Jobs can only come through industrialisation. Nation needs to build roads, rails, power plants, hospitals, schools and other infrastructures not only in big cities but also in smaller towns and villages. Government must decongest cities by building new cities.  Unless government can acquire land easily, it cannot bring in industry and investment for development. The last bill that was passed, BJP was also party to it, was very difficult from the point of view of land acquisition.

It has been argued that by taking away land for corporate interest may compromise India’s food security. It is important to note that, India’s farming is one of the most inefficient in the world. We do not employ technology, we depend on monsoon for farming, many a time our crop is lost because of bad weather condition. Distribution of food is also not adequate. Food goes to godown of Food Corporation of India and rots. There is inadequate mechanism to preserve and process foods. By taking land to build land and rail, cold chain etc improves farmers chance of selling at a better price. Farmer can travel to mandi easier to sell their produce at a competitive price. Farmer can decide not to sell when price is not right and store his produce by booking space in godown. 

Taking away someone’s possession is always traumatic. Government must assuage feeling of dispossessed, give them enough compensation, help them with management of money and prepare a rehabilitation package. Instead of promising four times the market price, government should actually raise the selling price to 10 – 15 fold, keeping in mind the escalation in land value when it is developed. There is a great trust deficit between what government says and what it will actually do at the time of disbursing compensation. Unless government can bridge the trust deficit and walk the talk, the number of urban homeless will rise in cities searching for jobs.

Tags: AAP,  Congress, Development, Farmer, Hospital, Industry, Infrastructure, Janata Dal United, Land Acquisition, Left Parties, NDA, Power Plant, Rail, Road, Samajwadi Party, School, Trinamool Congress, UPAII

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