Why keep farmers poor?

W.Bengal obsessed with keeping  tenants – owners in constant tensions!

Let us know W.Bengal is economically a poor state.  It is backward state too in health and education. The West Bengal Assembly had defeated a government-sponsored proposal to exempt certain provisions to relax the land ceiling law in operation in the state. The immediate purpose was to exempt the ceiling limits to enable two companies, one  Indonesian company wanted 5,100 acres of land for setting up a special economic zone (SEZ). The CM needs FDI  for a unique project, with industrial township, health city, a biotechnology park, a golf course and huge housing colony. Another Indian company, the Jindals want to set up a steel plant and need 2,6000 acres near Kharagpur.

Why the Chief Minister in the first place introduced the proposal? As the head of the government he is obviously in the thick of action, he has to produce results, he has to bring in FDI and more other infrastructure developments. The CPI(M) leaders are realistic, it is the other coalition partners who are adamant. Land ceiling is the new ideological hangup! The state has a land reform minister and it is he who opposed the bill.  They run a commercial TV channel, run newspaper chains and other business ventures including amusement parks! In W.Bengal too we suspect the same “corruption” of the ideologies takes place!

Now, Mr.Buddadeb Bhattacharjee, the CM is desperately needs some formula to achieve the goal of developing West Bengal. He seeks advice from Dr.M.S.Swaminathan. One doesn’t know who can produce a magic formula. It is no secret that how the CPI(M) theoreticians and practioners do their job! Dr.Subramanian Swamy had exposed the tactics of the CPI(M) and their survival game so graphically. The CPI(M) entered the West Bengal government on the JP wave that drove out the Congress. Swamy says ,tongue in cheek, as Lenin did in the Kerensky’s period.  In this environment the real  victims are the poor. The villages are now changing very fast and there is intense urban migration, either permanently or for daily wages.

So what, the W.Bengal CM or the other CMs don’t realise, more so the so-called agri experts too thrive on creating this illusion of a distress in the villages. It is a fact that our democratically elected governments, be it in the states or in the Centre, have no clue to the realities at the villages.

There is practically no government for the villagers. Yes, there are government agencies. But the will for changing the villages on some planned manner is absent. That is why the villages today are experiencing a market-driven change in its own way. Our experience is that there is no unemployment in the villages, except may be in some isolated pockets. The urbanisation is widespread and the mobility of agri labour during the agricultural seasons is well-documented. It is said by others that in W.Bengal only 28 per cent of the land is irrigated while in Punjab it is 90 per cent, in Gujarat it is 87 per cent, in TN, 78 per cent. Yet the CM says (as he did in a recent meet in Chennai) that in W.Bengal irrigated land in the state is 65 per cent.

The CM simply repeats what others have done, the decline in agriculture etc. This is for all India foodgrains production statistics. M.S.Swaminathan, all season adviser to all types of governments, is now also advising, obviously the W.Bengal CM who visited him in Chennai.  Taking the cue from the CM’s search of help, Swaminathan also talks in terms of empowering the unskilled rural labour into skilled one! Is it so easy and can we talk so glibly?

Rural India is changing and in the villages there are not enough adult labour to be re-skilled.  The agri productivity is below compared to Bihar (the yield in kilogram per hectare, between 1991 and 2000 grew by a bad low 1.90 per cent annually, while in Bihar it grew by 4.31 percent). People below poverty line in W.Bengal is quite high compared with other states. 81 per cent of Bengal farmers now classified as marginal farmers are living on the edge of poverty and destitution. Electricity to villages, it is still 78 per cent, while in AP, Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka and TN and Maharashtra it is 100 per cent!

The point is that by creating the non-accountable tenancy, you drive out all the investments from the land. There must be tenants, without tenants, more so now, one cant do agriculture. What we need is a fair tenancy system. There must be a market driven agri development strategy. You have to relax the land ceiling laws so that in some priority sectors like new agri technologies. We need honesty in reforming the land reform laws. It is time to grow the states economies in new and innovative ways. The educated youth of the rural India are restless and they don’t care for the talk of land reforms. They want productive jobs or they would move out. As in most India the rural youth are just doing.

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