Loosing Land and Identity

Recently when Karnataka government allowed the private firms to buy 1764 acres of farm land directly from the farmers, some important questions were raised .One important question was whether one should loose land in the name or for the purpose of development?should communities that have lost their identities remain silent ? Is there any alternative to such kind of politics?

It is argued that 109 clause of land reforms amendment act of 1998 came in handy to release lands to the private concerns .This clause in a way is anti -people. One side it helps the large capitalist and also the private industrial sector, and, on the other it is pitted against the common man, particularly poor peasants, tribals, and dalits At the outset the amendment provide certain limits to the amount of land that can be procured for different sectors. To the industrial sector it provides a limit of twenty units; for the educational institutions it fixed the limit to four units; for the place of worship it fixed the limit to one unit and for housing project ten units; and finally for the purpose of horticulture, floriculture and agro based industries it fixed the ceiling up to twenty units, However what is most intriguing is the subsequent clause in 109 clause.The sub clause IA exempt any extent of land for any specific purpose in the name of public purpose. Here the moot question is what constitute and represent public purpose, Can private concerns represent such an interest? However Karnataka is not an exception for allowing huge tract of land to be bought in the name of public interest. In Indian context, large number of lands have been taken over by invoking Land Acquisition Act of 1894. Although at present the said act has been amended however the concept such as the “eminent domain is often invoked to take over huge tract of land in the name of national development this has displaced large number of people from their original habitat. In recent years population between thirty and forty million have been displaced. Every year not less than fifty thousands have been displaced. As per one calculation nearly 6.4 million population has been displaced due to the construction of Big dams, 12.55 million due to mining, 1.25 million due to industrial development , 0.6 million due to the establishment of national park. The large number of people who have been displaced largely came from different social categories such as Dalits, Peasants, Backward classes

The support and the subsequent establishment of large number of Special Economic Zones have given a twist to the issues of displacement and the loss of land. Uptil the end of January 2008 Central government has notified 193 Special Economic Zones.At present more than 1300 applications are before the Central government Many communitarians at present are arguing that the Special Economic Zones would solve our large number of problems such as poverty, backwardness uneven development. ASSOCHAM, an industrial capitalist body, was vehement in arguing that SEZs should be established in Naxalite affected areas including Assam, Telangana, and West Bengal. These SEZs instead of solving the problems, would accentuate it. In fact it would further intensify the land issues. Best example is Goa state- in case the proposed fifteen SEZs comes into being, the political scape of Goa might change once for all. In the event more than one thousand SEZs are established then Goa as a state might be lost forever

SEZs require not less than 59,685 hectares of land. Although government is advocating that it would give permission to establish SEZs in dry land, monocrop areas however what is happening is quite contrary. In the final analysis agricultural and mineral lands have become the targets. Singur in West Bengal, Nandiguda in Karnataka, coastal district of Dakshina Kannada are best examples for the way the fertile agricultural lands have been taken over for the purpose of SEZs.The first report of suicide caused due to the loss of land to SEZs came from Dakshina Kannada points towards the growing crisis in the countryside.

This form of development results in the loss of identities to different social categories such as Dalits, Peasants, Tribals and Backward class. For them question of land is also the question of identity too. Towards retaining or retrieving identity, resorting to different form of social movements has become inevitable and essential. In fact the social movements are the crux of our democracy. Different social movements have emerged in recent past, reflecting the incomplete project of our democracy. In the present context the increasing number of social movements has given a new dimension to politics of social categories. In Kerala, the struggle against Coca Cola in Plachimada, Struggle of peasants Raigadh in Maharastra against Reliance, Struggle against privatization of river water of Shivnath in Chattisgarh,Farmers’ struggle against coca cola in Uttar Pradesh, Farmers struggle against Reliance in Haryana and Rajasthan, Struggle against SEZs in Dakshina Kannada are some of the important struggles of recent past. These struggle vary in each state, In these struggles the land issues again and again come to centre stage, Land become the most important symbol of identity. Loss of land in the final analysis would have the effect on lifestyle, cultural tradition, social life style etc. This is the reason why every social category tries to retain the land.

In this context one can ask the question as to the possibilities of controlling such a politics – is there any mechanism to control such a politics? Some time answer to the growing displacement and the loss of land is seen in the introduction of second generation land reforms .There are arguments saying that second generation of land reforms should be implemented through the Panchyati Raj System. However the moot question is how far our Panchayati Raj systems powerful enough to implement the land reforms? In fact in the SEZ areas no act of Panchayat can be introduced nor implemented . In the present context when SEZs have been declared as “foreign Territory” by the government, then how do we expect them to confront global capital – it becomes difficult to different Panchyats to confront the global capitalist or the international capitalist. In fact West Begnal is the only one state in the post-independence history to implement land reforms effectively than any other states. Today the same state is in the forefront of welcoming the global capital- it is difficult to imagine the power of the Panchayats to implement second generation land reforms. Many times the Panchayats might have passed the resolutions against the mega projects- but they have not succeeded in stopping from the implementation of mega projects- the classic case is the Nagarjuna Thermal project in Dakshina Kannada District or Mangalore-Bangalore pine line. In all these cases the Panchayats have failed to stop the big capitalist to enter into the domain of locality and thereby displace large number of people. Even our courts have declared that Panchayts have no rights to “evict” the multinationals operating in the countryside. The way courts have given their verdict in the case of Coca cola in Plachimada shows the growing weakness of rural institutions.

Even the earlier land reforms have failed to bring in radical transformation in India. There are three reasons why land reforms have failed : land reforms were not introduced uniformly in different states at one go; the land issue was largely confined to states than to the central; most important is the fact that land lords could able to exploit the loopholes in the land reforms towards their advantage. In some places the land reforms have given rise to communalism to grow( Dakshina Kannada in Coastal district) and in other places it has intensified the exploitation .Here no one can no be optimistic about the second generation land reforms. In this context poor ,tribals, peasants and other backward classes continue to loose their historical rights over land and thereby their identity. This is the irony of development paradigm that we have initiated in recent years.

Dr.Muzaffar Assadi
Professor and Chairman
Dept of Studies in Political Science
University of Mysore