The ongoing farmers' agitation in Uttar Pradesh over land acquisition is sad but a contentious issue in India (“Farmers' agitation spreads to Agra, Aligarh,” May 9). Since land acquisition for development is inescapable, it must be ensured that there is just and adequate compensation for and proper rehabilitation of the deprived farmers. Unfortunately, most State governments seem to follow archaic rules and procedures by offering a very low amount compared to the market value of land, which only results in anger. The Central government should immediately call all the Chief Ministers, set up a national board to fix the value of the land acquired across India and decide the level of compensation to be disbursed. Otherwise, we will continue to read reports like this.
The agitation could have been averted had the issue not been politicised. Land acquisition is a matter between the State government and farmers. Be that as it may, in this predominantly agricultural country, the state must bear in mind that industrialisation cannot be at the expense of farmers' welfare.
Fair compensation must go beyond monetary terms. Land acquisition by the government, whatever the purpose, entails forcible dispossession of farm lands and a loss of traditional livelihoods. For a farmer, finding alternative vocations or investing the money poses challenges in the form of having to take pragmatic decisions. He ends up spending the money, getting swindled or burning his fingers by investing in unviable businesses. The ‘take-the-money-and-get-lost' approach is neither just nor humane. Dispossessed farmers should have the right to claim a share from the future profits of the project.
The fact that lives have been lost in the farmers' agitation is disturbing. Are we living in British India when popular protests were controlled with brute force? Why is the government so rigid in handling internal problems, whether it is compensation for farmers or banning the use of endosulfan?