Land Acquisition Bill is more of a realtor’s dream come true with some states becoming masters of vast territories

The consent clause in the Land Acquisition Bill has the farmers rattled. Had it not been for other more pressing problems, they may have erupted. Those from Lutyens’ Delhi and on media channels are far more excited, as expected because the Bill may be more of a realtor’s dream come true.

For farmers, it has been a tough year; after selling their last crop at depressed commodity prices, they were compelled to buy urea at 40 per cent premium on the printed MRP in the sowing season. Also, even before the new crop has been harvested, farmers are being hammered by a spate of unseasonal rain and hail that are damaging crops.

Current worries on the farm will always take precedence over future probabilities like acquisition and environment. The land bill gradually becomes important for a select group because 50 per cent of India’s urban residents are not really concerned about land acquisitions. Most rural residents feel that their land is not even remotely under threat of acquisition because of their commercial locational disadvantages.

Before the last parliamentary elections, the Bharat Krishak Samaj commissioned the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) to conduct a study on farmer perceptions amongst those who had heard of the land acquisition proposals. Of them 21 per cent said that they had benefited from this law while 57 per cent of the respondents said that they were losing out because of the law.

All the while UPA II showcased the Land Acquisition Bill as a success story, the farmers perceived it differently and eventually it became an important reason why the ruling party was voted out of power. BJP and the Congress are both enchanted by the wrong set of people. The Congress is influenced by leaders and intellectuals far removed from the ground reality, while the BJP is overly attentive to industry.

Opportunistic new political entities wanting to reap an electoral harvest have already jumped on the bullock cart. Politicians who have never farmed and want to exploit the farmer’s plight for political dividend will continue to drive failures with policies and proposals. The real question to ask is has the country turned a corner with agriculture courtesy the Land Acquisition Bill. The media hype may say so but it is the usual political chicanery playing its part.

The UPA forced SEZs down the farm sector’s throat tom-toming it as a game-changer that would spur development and create jobs and ended up making bitter memories. The biggest beneficiaries of land acquisition in the past have been various state governments like Haryana and Uttar Pradesh; not even private enterprises as is commonly perceived. Today, the trust deficit is so deep that farmers do not trust the agitating political parties on the issue any more; much to the relief of the BJP. Hopefully, the BJP will be forced to amend its amendments by the numbers in the Rajya Sabha because protests will not work with them. All this while the restlessness in the farming space rises; the explosion is yet to come.