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The Land Act Divide

The recent amendment to "The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013" by way of an ordinance has once again put the spotlight on the debate of "Agriculture vs. Industry" and "Agriculture vs. Capitalism" etc.

Referred to, in some quarters, as the Brain Child of Rahul Gandhi (most notably by himself in the now infamous interview), and which I don't believe, the 2013-Act was considered to be India's homebrewn answer to the century old, archaic and patently anachronistic legislation of the troubles caused by a nineteenth century legislation. As with any such legislation, which reflects the policy of the Government in power, this legislation was welcomed and abhorred by people on different sides of the argument. 

Your side depends on which side of the political divide and debate divide you belong to, or atleast you believe in. The constant accusation against the legislation was that it is intended for the "Industry" and is primarily meant for "Capitalistic Enterprises" which have "Profits as the sole objective", catering to the needs of "Overseas Investors". And hence, it is an antithesis of socialistic principles of our country.

I am on the "right" side of this debate, irrespective of the political dispensation at the helm. And hence would delve mostly into what I find in my argument's favour. Though my position has never changed, due to various reasons which I would elaborate in the succeeding para, what really was a clear support was an interaction I had with a Mentor and a Consultant I frequently interact with over the past many years.

He was repeating what many people have been saying to me, but I never bothered to listen completely. Though not in exact words the substance is this -
"There is this huge rural-urban divide. You can see it in their eyes. You visit your native villages or the temple of your family deity, and you meet all these people back there, including the landlords. You'd find a bit of envy and anger and aspiration. You'd find them yearning for the car that you drive and fancy lifestyle that you exhibit. And you wouldn't even regard them as fancy. You'd think these are normal. The car could be an ordinary hatch. You'd be carrying some umbrella or better quality sandal. You'd be having a normal phone. But the entire combination creates that yearning. And they all want to move to urban area,thinking 'Why should I slog hard earning nothing, and struggling to meet ends, while people in other places are living comfortably?'. Now you may or may not live comfortably. And it might even be a matter of perspective. But their envy, anger and aspiration is real. And the benefits of economic development has not reached every place. And agriculture isn't the one that will take them there. And they know it."
 I have experienced these things before. I have been on both the sides. Though not on the Agricultural side, on the "semi-urban side" of the "Urban vs Semi-Urban Divide". Small things such as traveling by AC Class or by an Aircraft or wearing some fancy branded apparel (as against custom tailored) was part of what I had aspired for. I did envy quite a few people who were enjoying these things, either by virtue of them being in Urban Area or by virtue of being well off.

Now why do people think that "Industrialisation" is bad? The common accusation is that it "enslaves people". If there is anything is available in the history books, it is that the Agricultural Land Lords and the Agriculture Industry per se has been the breeding ground for bonded labour and slavery. The probability of a factory worker's son or family member matching or beating the Owner's son or daughter or family member in their career is far higher than similar scenarios in the rural side. The slaves remain slaves. And the bosses remain bosses. Their wards continue the role set by the parents.

The constant assertion that India is an Agrarian Economy is no justification to harping on to agriculture to deny Industrialisation its due. Every Joe keeps on comparing India versus other Developed Economies. No economy developed without Industrialisation. And by betting big on Industrialisation, no one is saying "Chuck Agriculture". We did have green revolution and white revolution, which was, arguably the largest impetus ever given for Agriculture. Whats wrong in giving the much needed impetus for Industrialisation? 

What if the Industrialist makes a profit? The often blind Maostic/Marxist tendency to brand anyone who aims for profit as "evil" needs a full stop. Don't farmers desire profits? Obsessive desire to profits by compromising on quality and labour management results in exploitation. Exploitation tends to be there in all industry, and needs to be curtailed. To single out the Manufacturing Industry is pretty lame and intended to cover up our inefficiencies in the Agriculture and vote bank politics. Like the minorities are treated as vote bank, the farmers are also treated only as Vote Bank. 

What else would explain "Farm Loan Waiver" by successive Governments? If the Nationalized Banks lend money and these are to be waived since the Agriculture is facing difficulty, and this happens every year, and despite that there are farmer suicides, it implies only one thing - our policy in handling Agriculture is unforgivably wrong or we are patently supporting inefficiency. In the guise of safeguarding Agriculture, we have made our farmers lazy, stalled innovation, incentivised inefficiency. 

By selling agricultural lands and converting them into factories or buildings, no one is straightaway staring into "inadequate food production", as is being made out again by the parties on the other side of the divide. What really is required to protect farmers is only education and equipments, and a great hope that they can earn good returns. The recent interest in "Organic Farming" by scores and scores of people is a standing proof that Agriculture can yield better returns. Industrialisation will invariably lead to progress in Agriculture and higher returns for all and sundry.

Agriculture has had its time under the spotlight.It has had its best chances. It has failed to elevate its dependents to a higher level. Agriculture, like the often abused word called as "Culture", will survive. Nothing can kill it. Neither can Industrialisation. Just that we need to stop glorifying it, or treating it as some yeomen service to humanity. By doing that we are just denying its progress, which is fettered by poor policies and inefficiencies. It just needs a shake up to improve.

No doubt agriculture is sacred. So is Industrialisation.


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