On 11th of March, amidst the growing debate on the Land Acquisition Bill, there appeared an editorial in Times of India. The title of this editorial was “India’s Farmer Fetish”. The contents of the editorial aside, the very title stands testimony to the bias and the prejudiced mind set that the farmers in the country are being viewed by the incumbent government, the political parties and the media to tow.
As stated in the editorial, yes, the India of 2015 is fundamentally different from that of 1965. But it would be interesting to check whether people have stopped eating food and started consuming plastic and cement. The last I checked this wasn’t the case! A lot of blah blah has gone into the editorial and eventually the claim made by the column is that since agriculture’s share in GDP is just 13.9% arising from 60% of Indian population, privileging farming above other occupation would kill growth and does not make any sense.
The idea that farming community is growing to be a liability to the economy is something that is fast catching on. A lot of events have already taken place since the date of this editorial, and the same paper has later written editorials lamenting the state of the farmers too! And a glaring point that must be noted is that if farming has not only turned a liability to the farmers but also to the National economy and its growth, we have none other than ourselves to blame! This is a situation that has been distilled through our years of flawed policy implementation and political as well as commercial exploitation of the farming community.
While the British Raj had forced the Agricultural practices within India to give up many of their traditional, indigenous farming methods and crops, post independence, a much needed boost to the renewal of agricultural practices failed to maintain its efficacy. While irrigation was extensively promoted and industrialization of the farming practices was emphasized upon, agriculture was pivoted to become the rallying factor for industrialization and new industry set ups. Whether this was a good move or not is a topic for another discussion. The rampant famine catapulted the need for a green revolution, but something that must have been seeded from within the Indian eco system was triggered by the borrowed seeds of West. While it ensured excess production of grains, it came at a heavy cost – one that we are paying for now. Extensive use of chemical fertilizers, monoculture farming and excessive relying on cash crops has significantly destroyed the fabric of Indian agriculture. Fields have gone barren and those that can still be tilled require more and more chemical fertilizers and excessive water to be producing at the same level as before. In regions of Maharashtra, indigenous and climatically suited crops have been forsaken for the sake of cash crops like sugarcane, which are most unsuited for its soil. In Maharashtra, only 4% of the total cropped area that grow sugarcane, consume 70% of the irrigation water supply. Such unsustainable practices are prevalent in many regions of India thus laying a heavy burden on the natural resources of the country. Unscientific farming (including excessive use of industrial and chemical equipment) is killing the lands – sustainability is a lost cause, where everyone seems to be looking for shortcuts to success and financial uplift.
Rampant deforestation, growing pollution, depleting water resources have left Indian agriculture to the mercy of the monsoons – which have time and again hit hard on the farming sector. Excessive or insufficient rainfalls have become a common feature. The unseasonal rainfall this year have destroyed the rabi crops and there is a surge of farmer suicides across the country. Yet, neither the Government, nor the farmers seem to be set to rectify their mistakes. With the number of ineffective lands on the rise, there is a strong need to set a corrective course before it is too late for everyone.
In this context the current Land Acquisition Bill is set to sound another death knell to the farming community that is already reeling under the pressure of years of mismanagement. By claiming that seeking of the consent of the farmers and social impact assessment would delay the process of Land Acquisition and there by hamper the growth of the country, the Government and some portion of the media is taking a myopic view of the situation where a holistic perspective is essential.
That the State can procure farm lands without the consent of the farmer for causes that are beneficial to the country is akin to stating that a section of the society can be robbed in order to fulfill the needs of others. This is nothing short of state sponsored crime under the garb of development. In return, the robbed will be handed over a penny’s worth of job. The glaring stupidity of this whole set up seems to be conveniently sidelined by the Government, and the Opposition party instead of rationally approaching the issue, is only trying to sensationalize and emotionally ignite the farmers. Narendra Modi may be using his hackneyed speaking skills in trying to woo the farming community with the promise of better life, but the shallowness of the whole proposition cannot be hoodwinked with honey coated words.
There are thousands of farmers who have to this date not received due compensations for their lands that were acquired as far behind as 1950s for ’causes of national interest’. There are many incidents of farmers from Chattisgarh having lost their lands due to the devious methods adopted by the industries – many farmers were terrorized into handing over lands, and many more were duped into selling it without their own knowledge. Exploiting the tribal laws framed by the Government, the industries have bought land in the name of their tribal watchmen or workers without their knowledge and in some instances paying them pittance to win their allegiance for their nefarious purposes. Ignorance and illiteracy is bleeding the nation while the incumbent government as well as the previous regimes have only paid lip-service for the cause of true progress and development. It is this ignorance that all the political parties, irrespective of their ideologies refuse to fix…nay, they would rather that it flourishes, so that the masses can be exploited under the garb of socialist or capitalist principles. It is our shame that even after 6 decades and more of independence, as citizens, we still look to be pampered and spoon fed, instead of demanding the basic rights of education and awareness!
(To be continued….)