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Your cover story (No Easy Acres, No Easy Answers, May 4) mentioned information revealed through an RTI application. It is required reading for investors in India. Also for those who want to help projects held up despite land being made available to them. Your article also reveals that besides SEZs, the railways and the defence forces hold land far in excess of requirements well into the future. The government should think of putting such land to good use. It should also investigate projects that are stalled and consider recovering land if it remains unused beyond a few years.
Srinivasan N. Iyer, Bangalore
The debate over land acquisition is turning into a left versus right squabble. Nobody seems to look at it from the green and ecological perspectives. We are creating deserts and toxifying them with industry.
Anoop Hosmath, Mysore
Politics and emotion have taken over the debate on the land acquisition bill. Even the media has focused on the politics of the bill rather than its merits and demerits. In rural areas, expectations are rising but returns from agriculture are diminishing. The only way ahead is for rural youth to train themselves and take up new vocations or educate themselves well to find well-paying jobs or enter professions like engineering, medicine or other specialities. At the same time, land should be graded according to fertility so that prime agricultural land—a sine qua non for a food-sufficient India—is not gobbled up by industry.
Deepak Seth, Faridabad
Saba Naqvi is right. But the simple truth is that the Indian farmer is being exploited. He is not being given remunerative prices. The minimum support price does not leave him with any cushion. The slightest drop in production jeopardises him. Some populist schemes, such as subsidised fertiliser, free water and electricity for irrigation are attempts to help farmers continue in their production and keep the nation going. Setting the right MSP is the key to keeping agrarian crisis at bay.
M.M. Gurbaxani, Bangalore
There is a need to redefine the very notion of development. Gleaming malls, smooth highways, sleek, streaking metro and bullet trains, a promiscuity of consumer goods—this is not development. Good schooling, healthcare and housing, jobs with dignity for the marginal groups is. The government is acting like a land shark.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
You say “the arguments being presented seem to suggest that since agriculture is non-profitable, it stands in the way of...development.” This reminds me of what Piloo Modi told Nehru, who had said in Parliament that China had captured lots of Indian land but “not a blade of grass grows there”. “Sir, not a single hair grows on my head,” said Modi, “but that doesn’t mean someone can chop off my head.”
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
I’m sorry. Your use of the photograph of the farmer who committed suicide is as macabre as the politics being played around the dead man.
Priya Madhavan, Rochester
In many states of America, eminent domain (that is, the power of the state to take private property for public use) is well-established. A well-known case on the constitutionality of land acquisition is the 2005 one of Susette Kelo vs City of New London, in which the US Supreme Court ruled that the general benefits of economic growth can be seen as grounds for the state to acquire and transfer land from one citizen to another and for such a transfer to qualify as “public use”. The ruling was much criticised and loudly protested. It now hangs like a sword over property ownership, although it must be said that in the US, the state has followed due process and paid fair compensation in the rare cases in which it has exercised eminent domain. I do not of course mean to suggest that the lawlessness practised in India get the stamp of legality.
Jaipat Singh, on e-mail
There are three contentious issues on the land acquisition bill—farmer’s livelihood, 80 per cent consensus, and project implementation in five years. I have the following suggestions: a) Pay part of the compensation in the form of shareholding in the company to which the land is given, thereby generating an income stream of dividends for those who lose their land; b) let districts compete for industries to set up units in them, thereby turning land acquisition into a bottom-up process; c) streamline the procedure and monitor projects to ensure they are implemented in five years.
S. Shiva Ramu, Bangalore