Do Bheega Zameen !


Ours is a simple 3 bedroom duplex house or a 2 level town home, if i were to describe it. Beyond the walls and the furniture and the location of the house, although, we were not able to build that much of an equity :-), but we managed to build a lot of memories. Thanks to our 4 year old daughter, from crawling on the floor, to climbing the stairs, to taking the first steps on the carpeted floor, to drawing on the walls and before we realized, she turned the whole house into a play ground. She didn’t leave even an inch. She would ride her bike, set up her princess tent house, play with her toy elephant.

There were also some painful moments, when she fell down from the sofa or when she threw up on the sofas or when she dropped the 2 new cell phones in the water jugs, but in total, we have build lot of  memories and the house is no longer just the 4 walls anymore. In essence, we are emotionally attached to this house.

Amarnath, is a father just like me, in Gobindpura of Mansa district in Punjab. He is 75 years old and also a father of 2 kids, who owns a 4 acre land where he has been farming for the past so many years, probably decades. Can’t imagine how attached the father must have grown not just with his house, but also with his farm land. For so many years, he and his entire family have been relying on the land for their livelihood. This is not just emotional any more, it’s also financial, economical and sustainability of not just Amarnath’s family but many other families in the neighborhood.

Now comes the new “Land Acquisition Law”, “This draft Bill seeks to balance the need for facilitating land acquisition for various public purposes, including infrastructure development, industrialization and urbanization, while at the same time meaningfully addressing the concerns of farmers and those whose livelihoods are dependent on the land being acquired,” rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has said in his foreward to the Bill.

As proposed, the final compensation in rural areas “would not be less than six times the original market value”, while in urban areas it “would not be less than twice that of the market value determined”.

Amarnath and others like Amarnath, now are being forced to sell their land at the rate at which the government proposes so the government can build a thermal power plant. It has already acquired 700 acres out of the total 860 acres it needs. While most of the farmers have given up their land, the others have refused to do so.

Amarnath in his own words said , “Police picked up my sons as they were protesting; I can’t give my land. They are just paying Rs. 23 lakh. What will I do with it, my land was very fertile,” (source: http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/now-land-acquisition-trouble-in-punjab-123102).

There are many more like Amarnath who are protesting, but not everyone’s protests are heard. While development is very essential, it should not come at the cost of the people whom the developments are supposed to benefit. At a minimum, the government should hold public discussions, discuss with them the alternatives, ensure complete transparency of the discussions, make it a public private participation. Development without disclosures is just yet another “2G scam waiting to happen”.

For me, it was my kid who gave the meaning to our house, you might have a different reason, and just like that, every other person.

Do Bheega Zameen ( Two Acres of Land ), after all is not just Zameen ( Land ), it’s beyond that. To take away the memories, to take away the livelihood, to take away the support system, is not something a babu in the ministry can simply decide by signing a few papers and making it a law. Mr. Jairam Ramesh, you are considered by a few as someone who is willing to listen, as you did in case of BT Brinjal. If not, then we must speak, just like we spoke against BT Brinjal.

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One thought on “Do Bheega Zameen !

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  1. Suresh – After magna carta in the 12th century, private property started to be protected by the governments and the scaredness of property ownership was implied in the new democracies especially the US and half-and-half in India – referring to itself as a socialist. The injustice that you bring forward in your write up is that the property ownership of marginal people is being compromised but the property ownership of large players like multinationals is being protected by the full force of the law and police might. Ask the govt to acquire a factory – impossible. The arguments are that factory is productive. Since when is an agricultural land not productive. India is moving in dangerous direction and it is sad to see it happening in front of our eyes. Like minded people organizing as a collective is the only answer. May be it is Lok Satta. I am looking for direction personally myself and I don’t think I have the wherewithal to lead an organization.

    BTW, there is not enough land on the planet for 2 acres for each living family but that is a worthy goal – low carbon footprint and sustainable living might actually help us reach that goal.

    Keep up your writing and I enjoy reading your work.

    Subbarao

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