The new land rights in the time of Nandigrams and SEZs!

Yes, so many new developments in the last few months! The Nandigram fires are not yet out. There is an undercurrent of new fermament. Across a wide spectrum of opinion and political self-survival! The CPI (M) could not have dreamt of such a turnout for its very morally indefensible positions and postures.

It is a great pity that it took some 30 years of such mistaken ideology to get exposed so thoroughly and so unexpectedly! The CPI (M) has the audacity to question the High Court, the office of the Governor and even the clutch of intellectuals and artists it counted for so long to keep mum and fall in silence whenever its credibility was questioned.
Why Nandigram had become a watershed in the evolution of politics in India? There are so many strands to a clear articulation or formation of a rational opinion. First, it was the long history of Stalinism. When that ghost had been laid by the very Soviet Union, it is here in the last bastion of W.Bengal, it is Stalinism that was still held as a piece of wisdom and now that stands exposed. It is the legacy of leftover Bengal renaissance to sustain an imagined intellectual consistency that drew the unsuspect and even the most suspect bunch of intellectuals, academics, the journalists and a wide variety of artists and others to stand by a party that had all the ingredients of authoritarian and even fascist tendencies.

That is the famous slogan of the right to the tillers of the soil to own land. Now, what are the land rights today? No one can dare to spell out. If the land is to the tillers then a whole gamut of opinion has to be questions. Land to the tiller in the countryside, in the villages and also land for the encroachers in the urban centers?

Yes, that is how power politics is played in the country.

Olga Tellis, the veteran journalist had detailed in the pages of The Asian Age about how the Mumbai politicians make the bucks by playing with the floor index space and crores and cries are made in regularising the encroachers’ rights! Tellis tells us that such crores are sent to fund the party in Delhi, even fund the foundations and thus, every corporate of Mumbai is a crorpathi!

So, we have it all the way in other cities. In Bangalore land is also to the encroacher. There is a whole lot of such land scandals in every other city. In Chennai, a new class of dadas are spotted, who help to encroach on others’ properties and get it bought and regularised.
So, what the CPI (M) is talking when it talks of Nandigram?

They only resorted to acquire land under the relevant lands to set up industry hub. They did this first in Singur and then in Nandigram. When things became hot they threw the towel and said they are not acquiring land.

By the time it became too late. All their accumulated sins got mixed up in party politics across the political spectrum, the Congress which had it easy by not reviving the party in the state in the cosy belief that the CPI (M) would let it do its business in Delhi, run its coalition as it suited its convenience. But no. The CPI (M) didn’t anticipate trouble on this scale. So, it started giving trouble over the nuclear deal. So, when the Trinamul gave trouble the Congress gave indirect support and also other elements who suffered silently at the hands of the CPI (M).The local land owners plus the others who were not happy with the strong arm tactics of the local dadas of the CPI (M) got together and given the heady mix of irrational ideology that also eulogises violence as part of its doctrine of enforcing the party line and so the flames engulfed the unsuspect complacent ruling combine.

So, it is not simple right to lands. It is a basic right under the Constitution. One must have the fundamental right to hold to property in land. This fundamental right had been tamped with all these years.

So, it is time now to reexamine the right to land, not at the cost of traditional land holders, but at the interests of public good. In the case of the CPI (M) there is no public go pod as such. It is the right of the party’s interests that is supreme.
It is something like what the DMK does in TN. Where the lands in public domain are taken and distributed to the “landless”. Who are the landless? It is the DMK cadres only.

So, the social climate today is such that any ruling party can take the law into its own hands and decide what is public interest and that is how the land rights have been sabotaged and the right to lands is now thrown to the winds and it has become almost impossible to buy or own land either in the villages or in the cities under clear title of law.

There is almost lawlessness prevailing in all the urban real estate deals. One can check for oneself whether in Mumbai or Delhi or Bangalore or Chennai. In Delhi, the sealing of the unauthorized constructions led to a new scandal, the name of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was dragged and the media punished for investigating the scandal.

So, we have to be extremely skeptical when one talks of land rights, right to land, land to the landless etc.
There is a long history behind the so-called land reform agenda! It starts from the Stalin-period agenda of forcible collectivisation of peasant lands and the eviction and killings of the kulaks, the landlords in Russia.

Politicians like Buddhadeb and Mamata Bannerjee and NGOs, dissenters like Medha Patkar or agitators like Aruna Roy might have their own agenda for farmers. But we have practical experience by organising farmers, marginal and small farmers on some projects like contract farming. Untrained farmers are  difficult lot and it would be next to impossible to create agro entrepreneurs without some basic training and this can best be done by the governments in agri universities and elsewhere. It is time we train farmers for the new tasks and opportunities.

We should all know what happened to Soviet communist dictatorship!
So, we in India have to give up totally the very concept of land reforms, as we have been talking all these years. Zamindari abolition right but what followed afterwards is wrong. Today, land ceiling laws, tenancy protection laws and also tenancy registration are all wrong and need drastic revision.

So too the new laws to regulate the ownership of agricultural land, also the urban land ownership, also the land acquisition for SEZs and much else for the urban and rural infrastructure development. As urban land ceiling act is to be mandatorily repealed under the new JNNURM, we have to repeal the various land reforms acts, more so the ceiling, tenancy registration under the new realities of SEZs and other land acquisitions for various infrastructure developments.
Ms.Aruna Roy & Co is leading an agitation for land rights to landless and the tribals and led a march of 25,000 “landless” to Delhi. The PM readily obliged! Is this all Ms.Roy wanted? Then, any Chief Minister would also oblige similarly!

At least let us be more honest and also realistic. Issues here are complex and also need some common sense.
Owning land, agricultural land in particular today is a headache! Agriculture is in crisis. Please understand, we say to activists of all schools!
We need more sympathetic attitude towards farmers. We need landowners. We need tenants; we need landless agriculture labout too!

So, don’t mix up issues. W.Bengal became a backward state by adopting the Stalinist model. You crushed rural people, you ignored industrialisation and you became a backward state.

Now, SEZs too need a careful approach. UPA gave in and the first round of SEZs was a windfall for industrialists, suddenly you deprived farmers their stable source of livelihood! SEZs notified, 154, total land taken 15,244.67 hectares and most are in the hands of very big industrial houses, Reliance & Co. AP alone gave 6,911.37 hectares! Approved SEZs, number 395 and the lands sought 52,090.94 hectares; again the big chunks of lands are in AP, Gujarat, Maharashtra and TN.

Surely, in the real estate boom that is marked by the current market demand, it is anybody’s how much the farmers lose and who stands to gain for the windfall profits! We know for sure the politicians are also going to be the biggest gainers in this windfall!

In Mumbai alone in Bhandra-Kurla, a square meter went for Rs.5.03 lakh!

So, we at least stop talking of old type land reforms! Let us give traditional farmers some genuine relief! And rest!

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