Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mining the farmer for all his land

Sreelatha Menon

When it comes to acquiring land from farmers, it is a race to the bottom as far as political parties and industries are concerned.

The farmer is never the winner when his land is acquired, whether in a state ruled by the Congress or the BJP, both of which have rushed to the support of the farmers who are resisting land acquisition in Greater Noida, close to this metropolis, in Bahujan Samaj Party-ruled UP.

The rate offered by the Congress government in Rajasthan in Jalore is a mere Rs 6.8 per sq metre, says Rajesh Tikait of the Bharatiya Kisan Union.

The offer ate is no better in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, where it is Rs 50,000 per acre or Rs 10.4 per sq metre.

In Greater Noida, the price offered is Rs 900 per sq metre, while it is Rs 570 per sq metre for land taken to make the Yamuna Expressway. Tikait says this uniformity among all parties in their attitude to farmers has led them to stay away from forming any alliances with them.

What is also common to all political parties which have protested against the Uttar Pradesh government is that they have all offered the new Land Acqusition Act as the solution for the problem. The Land Acquisition Act Amendment Bill has been pending in Parliament for three years. The first draft was made by activist Medha Patkar and presented in the National Advisory Council in 2006 during the first UPA Government. However, though this draft was recommended by the NAC led by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, it was replaced by a fresh draft in 2009. This was merely an amendment Bill, rather than a new law as proposed by the NAC.

Core issue
Says Patkar: “Political parties, including Congress and UPA, are projecting this British law as the solution for all ills on land acquisition. But how can it solve the problem of undemocratically planned development?”

She said the earlier draft she had made for the NAC had looked at planned development, rather than making farmers and land owners the pawns for someone else’s development.

Resistance to land acquisition has been manifesting itself either in court battles as in Kanjhawla in Delhi or in the form of prolonged agitations as is going on in Tamil Nadu, where 2000 farmers and villagers went on a hunger strike for 10 days this month against acquisition for private companies.

Farmers from Kanjhawla, who addressed the media today in Delhi, said that they did not want any price in lieu of land. “We won’t sell the land, for it is the only capital we have. It feeds us through the year and through generations. But a few crores won’t feed us indefinitely,” they said.

“They don’t want to sell land at any price,” says Patkar, who is supporting the farmers. Farmers, she said, are now asking not for better rates but for a part of the developed land, for nothing can be a substitute for land.

She said the violence in Greater Noida was nothing but an echo of the violence of the state in aggressively taking away the land belonging to villagers without consulting them.

“We are not justifying the violence of the people. But the state has to be more responsible,” she said.

Krishan Bir Chaudhury, president of the Bharatiya Krishak Samaj, a pro-Congress group, says despite an assurance by Congress president Sonia Gandhi at the chief ministers’ conclave last year that agricultural land would not be acquired, all the land being acquired in Haryana was agricultural. “The land acquisition that is going on is nothing but an assault on the food security of the country and all will pay for it one day,” he adds.

courtesy: http://business-standard.com/india/news/miningfarmer-for-all-his-land/435042/

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