Rapid industrialisation puts tribal-poor farmers at receiving end
Rapid industrialisation puts tribal-poor farmers at receiving end
Govt needs to create a win-win situation in an atmosphere of increasing confrontation
By Pravin Patel
The opening of Indian economy since 1991 has widened the gulf between rich and poor. A few, who have access to the corridors of power and know the art of inking MoUs, might have been benefitted from these MoUs in the name of development.
Contrary to this, it has hit hard to the poor farmers and tribals. The threat of being displaced is increasing with more and more new areas are being covered in these MoUs that have been signed.
No body can deny that there is a raging controversy over diversion of farm land for industrial, mining and other purposes. The need of the hour is to find a please-all solution by addressing the situation in absolute transparent manner by taking the farmers and tribals into confidence. Unfortunately, this is not happening. Land of the poor farmers is inked in the MoUs without taking them into confidence. These poor farmers and tribals come to know of the reality only when the survey team visits them. Forcible land acquisition process has resulted in uniting of the people facing the threat of being displaced.
When there is need to ensure that while pursuing the industrialisation, we need to take enough care that no injustice is done, more particularly to the farmers on whose land, the eyes of industrial corporation has fallen. The need is also to have a policy that takes the interest of the land losers and also the industrial corporations. But what happens in reality is that by hook or crook, playing mischief, use of force, committing brutalities, land owners are pushed to the corners. Those who support the genuine demands of the land losers are labelled as anti developmental forces. The people of Odisha have seen bloody scenes in Kashipur and Gopalpur in the past and recently in Kalinga Nagar. One should not be surprised to see newer battle grounds in the future too.
A bare look at the MoUs, one will find that the industrial and mining corporations are duty bound to move towards the direction of enriching all segments of the society, but the experience is otherwise. Even there are flaws in the mining as well as industrial policy but in the name of development, it is not being addressed. National Agriculture Policy and also Ministry of Environment says no to the use of farm land for the industrial purpose.
Even two most important legal provisions of the Panchayat (Extension of the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 are crucial. Section 4 (d), it is mentioned that: "The community at the village level in the form of Gram Sabha is competent to manage community resources."Section 4(i) says "The Gram Sabha shall be consulted before the acquisition of land and the rehabilitation of the affected people"
The fact is that the average size of landholding is so small, that those poor farmers and tribals can not match to counter the powerful industrial corporations to influence the decision makers. The need is to have a better farm policy keeping this faction in mind to improve the economic status of farmers by improving agricultural productivity. The need is to find a long-term solution before we jump in to address the situation in bit and pieces as is being done currently. We should not force the distressed farmers to keep away from agriculture and shift to manufacturing and services and other non-agricultural pursuits, or even become a daily wage earner, which is being witnessed so far.
Similarly, the scenario on the water or environment front needs discussion. Steel, Power plant and other industries require large quantities of water. Even after over sixty years of our independence, we have not done enough to irrigate the farm but when the need for industries is there, it takes no time to divert the water from the river or dams. Why this discrepancy?The problem is that the state government works in favour of private companies as if they are their representatives and by openly bulldozing peaceful public dissent, social consensus and people's aspirations, push the people to a point of no-return.
Here, the question arises why the farmers should be made sacrificial goats in the name of development? Is it because he is not in a position to bargain or influence the state authorities, the way industrial corporations are believed to manage to buy favours. Why those who make all this sound in the name of investment be asked to make sacrifices? When government dictates terms on farmers and poor, why it fails to act in a similar manner to the defaulting industrial corporations? 3400 Acres of land lost at Behrampur in the year 1988, neither plant has come up nor any employment is created, but state is silent onlooker. Injustice done to the farmers can not be justified.
There is a need to look at the realities in the field of agriculture also. The fifth National Economic Survey has stated the fact that during the year 1998 to 2005, employment opportunities in the non-agriculture sector has increased by 25%, where as the work force increased by only 2%., which during the year 1994 to 2000, it was only 1%. The situation in Odisha is worst.
The area of concern is that while 73% of our workforce depends on agriculture sector; it contributes only 21-22% to our GDP.Despite the employment rate grew by 7.3% in the years 1970 to 2000, over 26% of the population of country lives below the poverty line.This establishes the fact that despite the increase in the employment opportunities in agro sector, income of the individual or the family has not risen, rather suicides of the farmers has proved that in fact, their economic conditions has worsened.
Investment policies have been framed keeping the interest of Capitalists. Despite the net Gross Domestic Product is increasing at the rate of 5% but the rate of employment has gone down to 1.97% but still industrialisation is glorified in the name of creating employment opportunities.
After speedy industrialization and rapid economic growth, we have entered in to the era of global recession. Lay offs and job cuts are on increase. We are in a situation where we see ill effects of the neglect of farm sector. The liberalised economy and rapid rate of growth of our economy has failed to address the unemployment problem. With more and more automation and new technologies that drastically reduces man power requirements, we are all set to be trapped in a situation looks dangerous. Considering the preset rate of employment, neglect of our farm sector and looking at 2001 Census, there will be huge battalion of about 20 million unemployed youth in the country by the year 2018. What will happen at that point of time is shear imagination.
Situation of Orissa can be worst, as we have large areas of land where there is no irrigation facilities, farmers are in the clutches of illegally operating private money lenders as the banking network in the State is much below the benchmark. The gap between the rich and poor will increase may lead to chaos all around. With proposed labour law reforms, pursued by the industrial lobby that advocates hire and fire policy will add fuel to the fire.
All this happening and likely to happen in future too, in a state which is gifted with immense natural wealth. Corruption, inefficiency and political interference have demoralized the honest administrative officers. Author of Orissa's economic growth have failed to improve the plight of the farmers who are also suffering from repeated draughts due to lack of proper irrigation facilities despite huge Dams have been constructed by acquiring land of the poor in the name of providing irrigation and power generation. The water and power in the state is beingdiverted to the Industrial houses.
Agriculture is the way of life for the majority of people in Odisha. Land is fundamental asset and it is a primary source of income, security, statusand dignity. Without land, tribals can not survive with dignity. For tribals, land is like their Mother. There are provisions in the Constitution of India that protects the land ownership rights of tribals.
Fifth and Sixth Schedule of the Constitution are significant in this regard. Attempts are needed to ensure that traditional command of the Adivasi community over resources is honoured; Development in the tribal area takes place with focus on the quality of the life of the Adivasis and development with equity. It is an irony that in the hurry for the so called development, powerful, wealthy and those who can influence the government machinery, systematically but surely have laid their hands on the natural wealth of the state. It is the duty of the state government to practice policies for the welfare of its people and not to behave as the representative of the powerful industrial and mining corporations.
There is a crying need to have a state-wide political discussion and debate on the neglect of agriculture sector and formulate policies for a holistic development of Odisha with an equity for all.