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Congress' vote-acquisition drive
Business Line, India Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sharad Joshi
The Congressnow wants only non-fertile land to be acquired for industrial purposes. The Congress party has a long tradition of committing blunders to claim credit for innovation, and then accepting the Opposition agenda to claim credit for reforms as well, writes Sharad Joshi in Business Line.

Is the Congress party preparing only for the imminent elections in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh? Or is it preparing for the 2014 general elections?


It would appear that the Congress party has worked out its strategy. It has been very good at adopting and absorbing the agenda articulated by the Opposition. Mamata's triumph in Nandigram, the mass support received by leaders of the anti-acquisition movement in Aligarh, and the recent pronouncements by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, suggest that the UPA has hit upon what it thinks is a good election issue. The dynasty has the Midas touch that makes issues raised by the Opposition for decades appear fresh and original.


If the UPA reaped the benefit of the farm debt relief and loan waiver scheme in the last Lok Sabha elections, it hopes it can win the elections in West Bengal as also in Uttar Pradesh on the plank of land rights, and then proceed to call for mid-term general elections on that very plank.


Rahul Gandhi is making it look as though he is initiating the move, whereas an amendment to the existing Land Acquisition Act has been on the anvil, at least since 2007.


Fortunately for the Congress party, the Opposition has failed in working out a logical and rational solution to the problem. Land is in short supply and the needs of non-agriculture and infrastructure projects are increasing.

Land values are skyrocketing and, even though a majority of the farmers wish to give up farming, they are stuck, thanks to the lure of rapidly increasing prices. How to get the land from the farmers without causing politically unaffordable resistance?

... ...

Farmers have not been tempted by any such alternatives. They are at a loss to understand why Mumbai's failed mill magnates should have a right on their prime lands, while agriculturists, who have suffered all along under a regime of negative subsidies, are being pushed out with an arbitrary and miserly compensation.

Sonia Gandhi may well protest against the system that is unfair to farmers. But she might do well to remember that it was her grandfather-in-law, Jawaharlal Nehru, who in his socialist fervour sowed the seeds of trouble. Nehru initiated the move to abolish the fundamental right to property to spite the much-maligned zamindars. She must also remember that it was her mother-in-law, who fired the final blow to the fundamental right to property.


Restoration of the right to property will ensure that he cannot be forced out of the possession of his land by an arbitrary diktat from the government. If he wishes to continue with cultivation, a situation of food scarcity requires that nobody should be forced out of production of food. On the other hand, if a farmer does not wish to continue agriculture, the Constitution will bestow on him full right to dispose of his land to any party, at any time and at any price that is acceptable to him. If any particular land is required for any particular project by the government, the project authorities must be prepared to make an offer that the farmer cannot refuse.


Farmers are sentimentally attached to their land. Asking them to part with non-fertile land and keep only the crop lands is like suggesting that the householder hand over to a marauder his less handsome daughters and keep the prettier ones.

The Congress party has a long tradition of recklessly jumping into blunders to claim credit for innovation, and then accepting the Opposition agenda to claim credit for reforms as well.

Even the mighty Jawaharlal Nehru had to beat a hasty retreat when he tried to push cooperative or community farming. The Congress party and the UPA have so far done quite well under Sonia Gandhi's leadership. She should do better than walk innocently into a complex issue, only to destroy the good work she has done so far.

This article was published in the Business Line on Wednesday, September 22, 2010. Please read the original article here.
Author : Mr Joshi is founder, Shetkari Sanghatana (Farmers' Organisation) & Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
Tags- Find more articles on - farmers | property rights | vote acquisition

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