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Agriculture Vs Industrialisation: Indian Economy pushed to a jump shift - II

"Unmindful of the fact that the per capita land holding is already at an abysmally low of 0.25 acre, the government is using the draconian Land Acquisition Act 1854 to further acquisition in the name of development."

Editorial : July 10, 2007

Falling growth rate of agricultural production has made Indian Finance Minister and the Prime Minister raise their eyebrows and express their concern in the parliament. It is time for more programmes and declarations for the development of farmers and the growth of agriculture in total. But are the reasons behind the growing distress of Indian Farmer and the uncertainties in the Agriculture sector taken into consideration by the planners while planning for development of agriculture, farmers and rural India as a whole?

Among many reasons behind the fall in agricultural production graph and sustaining misery in rural India is land grabbing. Conversion of agricultural lands into industrial, housing and commercial lands which has squeezed the volume of agricultural lands has been rampant during last decade. When population growth has led to the demand of more houses, construction of housing and commercial complexes looking at the future demands and requirements grabbed more agricultural and non-agricultural lands for real estate development. Lands on the periphery of almost all big and small towns are acquired by real estate developers and local housing companies.

Leave apart the lands in the periphery of Metro Cities, thousands of acres of agricultural and green patches surrounding Bhubaneswar - Cuttack twin city, Rourkela and small towns like Khurda, Pipli, Puri, Berhampur, Jeypore, Sambalpur etc. in the state of Orissa are grabbed by the builders and real estate developers who are in the business of selling plots, houses and building commercial complexes. There is a law that exists in the state to check such massive use of farmland for non-agriculture purposes. But the law is easily twisted or violated by the power of money. The irony is, corporate houses, dignified as well as responsible citizens and their family members are involved in the process for which law is bound to close its eyes.

If this is the picture in only one state, that again in a poor state with comparatively less population, imagine the gravity of the issue on the national canvass. As the government can't stop housing meant for basic need of shelter, restrictions can be imposed on the real estate developers who do it in a commercial scale and force them abide by the law that exists in the country.

After housing and real estate development, the other grabbers are big and small industries coming to invest on various industrial projects and Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Tens of thousands of acres of land are being diverted away from agriculture in the name of creation of ‘special economic zones’ which can be termed as the biggest land-grab and displacement drive in the contemporary world pursued by a democratic government that claims itself to be the people's government.

Unmindful of the fact that the per capita land holding is already at an abysmally low of 0.25 acre, the government is using the draconian Land Acquisition Act 1854 to further acquisition in the name of development. In the first phase of clearances accorded by the government, a total of 1.25 lakh hectares of prime agricultural land are in the process of being acquired. The drive will go on at a similar scale in the subsequent phases too. Such large-scale acquisition of single, double and multi crop agricultural land and their diversion for industrialisation has led to mass eviction of people from their own land and the livelihood source that enabled them sustain by themselves.

Such a campaign of eviction behind the development camouflage has affected the tribal and non-tribal communities who have been living in the places where government planned industries. In fact, the displaced families are put in a situation where they have no option to survive on agriculture by their own choice and are forced to convert themselves into industrial wage labourers.

It seems, the basic pattern of economy based upon agriculture is now making a jump-shift towards an industrial economy dreamt, erratically, by the politicians without any vision for the development of people living at the bottom of socio-economic hierarchy. Can India and its people really develop with such an industrialisation drive at the cost of agriculture and the basic economic system of the country?

>>> Scroll down to read rest of the Story


Take for example the case of Orissa's Steel City Rourkela where SAIL established its steel plant with similar promises to the people who sacrificed everything for industrialisation. What has happened to them so far? How many of them really developed and what is their socio-economic status by now? SAIL could have trained them and employed in its plant. A portion of the revenue earned should have been spent for the development of those tribal families who were displaced for it. SAIL spent money, township around the plant was developed, but it was all meant for the welfare of its own employees.

The sons of the soil who sacrificed everything were pushed to the outskirts like Jhirpani where they live in the slums and sacrifice further for the comfort of the Plant officials and outsiders destined to taste the cream of Industrial development. Many of the displaced families are yet to get rehabilitated as promised by the then government and the plant authorities. Most of the tribal members have become rag pickers - a profession that grows with development of any township in India, a good number are serving as domestic workers (Slaves!) in the residence of SAIL officials, many are working in different hotels and garages, few have either a tea stall or a pan shop and if you meet a flourishing member in the community then anyone of his/ her family must be riding a trolley or an auto-rickshaw taken on loan or being put as a driver by someone.

If this is called development, as conceptualised by the so called development politicians and initiators, then is it required in a country like India? And should people sacrifice their livelihood sources for such kind of development?

Like the corporate owners, people in the government and policy makers argue - India is having huge mineral reserve which, in raw form, is never considered as a development indicator. It has to undergo certain value addition process and given a form where it has a better value to add to the GDP for which large huge investment, thus industries, are essential for the country. If we believe this argument presented before the public, the other question is where the priority should be - Steel, Aluminium or food?

When the population across the globe is on rise and there has been a fall in the agricultural production resulting in shortage of food materials has already been felt in many industrially developed countries, should India go for Industrialisation at the cost of Agriculture? If manufacturing Industries are essential for the growth of GDP, Agriculture is the most essential sector for the total human population and Agriculture would be the most lucrative sector in next 10 - 15 years?

Take the example of China, our neighbouring country that inspired us to develop the SEZ plan, where only six SEZs have been set up so far at Shenzhen, Shantou, Xiamen, Zhuhai, Hainan and Pudong. These economic zones, all as public sector SEZ, came after lot of debate and deliberation, and all of them are situated only along the coasts. Faced with shrinking cultivable land, the Chinese SEZ have come up only on wastelands. All these norms are just thrown to wind in India.

As few countries in the world have the potential of producing food grains, vegetables and pulses to feed rest of the world, India has great scope of cashing upon it. Industries can be planned on waste lands, non-agricultural lands or somewhere close to their respective mining sites where the green cover is usually destroyed for mining. If we close our eyes towards agriculture for industrialisation, we are neglecting our own potential and inviting the problem of food crisis in the country. Is it our government's the development perspective? >>> Read Part I



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