By Kunal Anand:
The recent farmer agitation in Noida brought back the memories of Singur. It was an agitation of poor hapless farmers who are expected to sell their land (which has been in their family for generations) in exchange for cash and sometimes, a job. We might have varied opinion on land acquisition policies of our governments. Some of us accept it as a necessary evil to make way for the new modern India that needs roads, factories and high-rises for her latest tryst with destiny to become a superpower.
Yet there are those of us who find it unjustifiable to take away land from their owners all in the garb of development. Add to this the political games played on such sensitive spots. Singur became a battlefield between the CPI (M) and Trinmool Congress cadres. Most of the dead were common villagers. Similar struggles in Chattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand have helped the Maoists expand their base among poor tribals who are being uprooted from their centuries old homes to make way for mines and steel plants.
Instead of forming a fair land acquisition policy (the current policy is cumbersome and vague and Governments can manipulate it to suit the interests of their corporate partners), our politicians use every agitation to fulfill their own designs. Riding on the Singur wave, Trinmool Congress has overthrown 34 years of communist rule in Bengal. But the ultimate losers have been the people of Singur. When Trinmool picked up the issue, the TATA Nano plant had already been constructed. Instead of working for an amicable compromise, the stubbornness of Mamta Banerjee forced the TATA’s to leave Singur. What’s left behind is a large swathe of concrete covered land that is now unfit for cultivation. At the same time, people have been deprived of jobs that they had got in the TATA plant.
In Noida, C.M Mayawati ordered the police to arrest the leader of the farmers. There were also reports of police lathi charge on the protesters. So much for a leader who claims to be the messiah of the Dalit and downtrodden. Enter the poster boy of Indian polity, Rahul Gandhi. He sat with the farmers and declared that he is ashamed to call himself an Indian. Considering that his family and his party have ruled this country for most of the time since independence, a more accurate confession would have been that he is ashamed to belong to a party and family whose policies have made him ashamed of being an Indian. A strange thing about Rahul’s support to such causes is that he always comes to the forefront when the issue pertains to non-congress governments. He will weep for the tribals of Chhattisgarh and Noida, but keeps mum over lakhs of farmer’s suicides in Vidarbha, Maharashtra. He will call Mayawati a tyrant but his party will go hand in glove with BSP to stall the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on 2G scam.
This kind of double standard pervades all the parties. The problem is the opportunistic mentality of politicians and businessmen. Instead of giving the owners of land their due, they try to shortchange them. Just cash won’t be enough when you are taking away a man’s only source of income. He must be given a proper job too. If he doesn’t have the required education, he must be trained instead of being made a watchman on the gates of factories. We also need to control our greed for useless urban expansion. Few years ago, a study showed that more than half the malls in Gurgaon are suffering losses due to lack of consumers. This is bound to happen when you have a shopping mall at every intersection.
“The soul of India lives in its villages”, declared M. K. Gandhi at the beginning of 20th century. According to the 2011 Indian census, 70% of Indians still live in villages. It’s possible that our ivory tower existence in the cities, coupled with round the clock display of urban India in the media might make us think that this country is all about big cities and towering glass buildings. But the truth is that we make a small minority of the real India. The real India works overtime to grow food grains while we “LOL” on Facebook.
It gives this country the much needed green cover in these times of global warming. Without this real India, we will be forced to believe that real mango means a bottle of Maaza. Even if we can’t appreciate these facts, the truth remains that those people whose land is taken away forcefully are no less Indians than any one of us. They too have the same rights. They too deserve the same dignity. It’s time the government, corporate world and the urban Indians develop a sympathetic attitude towards the sensitive issue of farmland acquisition.