Sunday, May 22, 2011

Do bigha zameen and the furore it generates

Year 1953, Shambhu Maheto striving to make the two ends meet, his stifling existence being burdened with the amount he’s supposed to pay back to the zamindar, a paltry Rs. 235.
Circa 2010, Nattha, another naïve and gullible farmer decides to take the extreme step so that the posthumous aid could help his family.
Things haven’t changed much!
Land was a contentious issue then; it still is and does not seem to be headed towards culmination.
Why does everything and anything related to land acquisition calls for loads of hoopla that ultimately results in brouhaha, making it difficult for a layman to draw substantive conclusions out of it?
The arena might be different with nouveau players trying to connive and turn tables in their favor, yet the debate continues incessantly and the cacophony becomes even fiercer with the names changing (guess, that’s the only reprieving factor for the audience who’s keeping a track of the entire show); so it keeps moving on from Singur, Nandigram, Tappal, Bhatta-Parsaul……,”Live from Peepli” keeps buzzing around garnering attention out of sudden curiosity. Land is an asset for the farmer and that too of paramount importance. For he does not have anything else to boast of, and this is the irony of fate that we’ve never made him an intricate part of our surging economy though he has been at the helm of everything we’ve harped on in the name of development and so-called progress. While the political players-cum-soothers keep on changing, be it Mamta Banerjee at her didactic best or more recently Rahul Gandhi in his savior avatar, the farmer is often sent in a state of stupor or rather a state of bafflement, not realizing who is his well-wisher and starts donning an aggressive form giving vent to all his suppressed frustration and exasperation.
Bhatta Parsaul, a relatively Jat dominated village in the precincts of Gautambudh Nagar is on the boil these days, it all started with the abduction of government officials that soon assumed monstrous form with violent clashes between police and farmers. If that wasn’t enough, we have the Gandhi scion claiming of brutal killings, ash mounds and rape of women. Well, he could not substantiate his claims though. As a villager rightly said, “Rahul Ji thoda confuse ho gaye honge”. Consolidation attempts in the wake of imminent UP Assembly Elections seemed pretty evident. What left me flabbergasted was the fact that Rahul Baba’s penchant towards UP, that overlooked the Congress led Maharashtra where perhaps every eight minutes, a farmer is committing suicide!
In 2010, UP Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar exclaimed a new Land Policy that was touted to be ‘one of the best in the country’. They had sprung into action owing to slurry of clashes in Tappal, Aligarh. Some of the sops in addition to mutually settled price included annuity at the rate of Rs. 20,000 per acre for a duration of 33 years, this period would also include an annual hike of Rs. 600 per acre, consolidated wages for one member of the family being employed for a minimum period of five years. It had much more to offer in its platter, the question however arises that why suddenly the sumptuous offering has become a bitter potion for the farmers. The answer lies in the ‘inequitable distribution of profits’. Imbalance always incites disharmony and this is exactly what has enraged the farmers. Starting from the bottom of the pyramid wherein the farmer sells land to the government, let’s say at Rs. 200 per square meter, the government sells it off to real estate players at Rs.1500 per square meter and the real estate player of the likes of Jaypee, etc. sell flats in their magnanimous township at Rs. 15,000 per square meter, do you really think the farmer who decided to sacrifice his land to begin with has got his due share? The one at the top of the pyramid, the business moguls are the ones lying smug out there making the most from the deal. Perhaps it is this imbalance that’s contributing to the entropy of the system.
While the political drama will continue, trying to reap the utmost benefit from the fray, it’s high time when this ubber sleepy nation should wake up to the harsh reality. Means should be devised to make farmers an intricate stakeholder of whatever be it land or his produce being given for the good of the country. We do owe a lot to him. After all, how many Shambhu Mahetos and Natthas are needed to ring bells in your ears?

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