The bugle for Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh has been sounded with Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s Padyatra and holding kisan mahapanchayat in Aligarh, but only time will speak how much the Congress will score in polls from such exercises. Rahul Gandhi selected the place of western part of the state for his Padyatra, where he had visited and this village has been in limelight due to land acquisition issue. Rahul Gandhi began his foot-march from Bhatta-Parsaul, Greater Noida, where there was a bloodbath owing to the clashes between farmers and police, leaving five people dead. When Rahul reached this village to stage dharna, he appeared as messiah of the farmers, but the Mayawati government arrested him citing the reason of breaching the law and order of the state. After returning to Delhi, Rahul held the state government for sexual harassment of women and killing of the farmers in Bhatta-Parsul, but he could prove them so far. However, Rahul Gandhi has targeted the BSP government since then. Although the state government has come up with new policy of land acquisition, the Congress deems it anti-farmer, though it would have been better, had the Central government taken concrete steps to give justice to the farmers. Right now, it is difficult to say farmer-friendly land acquisition bill would be passed in the monsoon session of the Parliament.

The state government has acquired land at very cheap rate in the western UP. The land was acquired in order to cater the industrial need, but later they were sold to builders at high price. The farmers are shocked over it and demanding for more compensation. The Supreme Court and the High Court scraped the acquisition of land in a village of Greater Noida, vividly indicating that land was forcefully acquired. The Congress reads the court order as its own victory, but the party does not explain what steps would it take against the injustice being done with the farmers? Rahul Gandhi said that a law could not be made in split of second and any decision in a coalition government must be taken in unison. He could not give satisfactory answers regarding price hike and corruption, which gives message that he is just playing politics in the face of assembly elections in UP and trying to hush up the shortcomings of the Centre.

The land acquisition issue keeps coming every now and then in our country. The violence in Singur and Nandigram is still afresh in the minds of the people. In Singur, Tata had to give up Nano project in the wake of farmers’ protest. Mamata Banerjee stood by the stance of farmers. Apart from West Bengal, many other parts of the country too have witnessed the violence triggered by land acquisition. At some of the places, simmering is still on. The recent example is Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa, where tribals are protesting against the Pasco project, but the Central government again promises to bring new law of land acquisition.

The pace of development in and around Delhi has increased in the last two decades that causes land acquisition on large scale. Similar incidents have happened in other cities too, which are obvious. The big city is the epicentre of development.  The rapid development in Delhi attracts people from across the country, because it generates opportunities of employments. The governments of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have taken full advantage of the fact. Today, Noida-Greater Noida and Gurgaon-Faridabad have become a hub of developmental activities.  It is assumed that UP and Haryana are gaining most of their revenue from these areas, but it cannot be ruled out that many rules and regulations have been violated in the name of development. There is nothing wrong if land is acquired for industrial development and residential purpose. Without land, there could not be any development, but it is not fair that land should be acquired arbitrarily. At present the way land is acquired is not only wrong but also hampering interests of the farmers. The farmers should not only get compensation rather they should also be given an opportunity of employment. This apart, farm labourers too should be taken care. It is irony that despite the piling of issues related with land acquisition, the Central government is not able to amend the land acquisition law.

The rural economy of the country is dependent on the farmers, but they are going poorer day by day. The state government alongwith the Centre can be held responsible for it. It will be better if Rahul Gandhi feels that merely reaching out to the farmers and lending his ears to their sufferings would not suffice to revamp their situation. It is fair that he reaches out to the farmers to sense their problems, but he has no concrete reply that what steps are being taken by the Centre to boost the rural economy. It is palpable that only the projects like MNREGA will change the face of the rural economy. This project too is not insulated from corruption. In order to improve the rural economy, there is a need to jazz up living standards of villagers alongwith diametric change in the agriculture field. Such steps to improve rural scene is conspicuous by its absence. The leaders of states and Central establishment are busy in showing their sympathy in order to boost up their vote bank. The leaders are reluctant to go to the root of the problems. They have understood that innocent and uneducated farmers could be wooed by merely giving assurances, but they must know that the situation is changing on large scale. If the Centre alongwith states does not encourage investments in the infrastructure of agriculture to better the situation of the farmers and bring reforms, the farmers will be cornered and the economy of the country will be battered ultimately. 

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on July 10, 2011 translated by the English Editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)