Destroying fertile agricultural land – Is this development?
Vijayawada, October 31: The government of Andhra Pradesh has unveiled its plan of land pooling around Vijayawada for building the capital city. Speaking on acquisition of land, agriculture minister and member of the land pooling committee, Prathipati Pullarao said that the government proposes to acquire 30,000 acres of land from 17 villages in Guntur and Magalagiri.
The land that is being acquired will be on the right side of the river and the capital city will be developed in six sectors of 5,000 crore each. PullaRao assured the land owners that the villages will remain untouched and in addition to the cost of land that is being estimated from Rs 75000 to One crore, the government will pay a compensation of Rs 25000 every year until 10 years with an increase of 5% every year. Each land owner will be given 1000 square yards of developed land for every acre parted with.
We have been facing positive response from most farmers and those who are not convinced with the deal – we shall try and convince them and complete land pooling in three months – said PullaRao.
However, the reality of it all is quite frightening. To start with – in many of the lands being discussed, it is the small tenant farmer who is handling the show. And the farmers that PullaRao talks about are usually the land owners, many of whom are no longer doing agriculture, some have shifted to cities and the parents and elderly who stayed back are holding on to their land for want of good price. And to these set of farmers, PullaRao’s solution will definitely work. And all the so called benefits, automatically will reach these big farmers.
But, the tenant farmers get nothing and in addition lose their daily bread. The percentage of tenant farmers in the region ranges from 35% to even 90% in some areas and in most cases are Dalits. And it is calculated that on every acre of fertile land in Guntur and Vijayawada areas, there are at least eight people earning their livelihood. The proposed land pooling and planning of the capital city will displace these small farmers and farm labourers. Though one can foresee increased construction activity in the area in the next few years, where the farm labourers can expect to find work, what will happen to them later?
Further these are fertile lands that are being cultivated since over 10 generations and on an average every acre produces 24 quintals of rice and with two seasons in hand, that totals to 48 to 50 quintals per every acre. Acquiring agricultural land for building the capital will directly affect production and snowball into risk for food security.
“In Singapore, there are hardly around 200 farmers. The entire population of the country will not even be the number of people who commute by Indian railways every day. To emulate Singapore model in an agricultural based country is foolishness,” says Ramanjaneyulu, Agricultural Scientist. “It is not just the capital city. There are now so many corridors that have been announced, and if they come into existence, there won’t be any more land left to do agriculture in AP,” he adds.
This reminds us, yet again, of the wrong choice of capital city for Andhra Pradesh. Even though Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has insisted that the decision was made on the basis of availability of proper infrastructure, logistics, land and other potential aspects for building a whole new capital; politics of caste and pressure from certain business heavyweights seems to have been the influence behind the decision.
Even now, the government of AP can move towards Macherla and try and acquire less fertile lands and be more diligent in protecting agricultural lands while formulating projects and development corridors and aim at inclusive grown, Or, it may not be too far a prospect when the rice bowl of India will have to beg and borrow food grains.
CPM affiliated raithu sangham has said that the entire process of land pooling is against the Supreme Court (SC) directives and norms of Land acquisition Act.
Addressing a meeting of farmers in Mangalagiri on Thursday, raithu sangham district secretary Y Radhakrishna said that acquiring green fields for capital was illegal. Stating that the land pooling process had no legal sanctity, Radhakrishna alleged that the government was only trying to deceive the farmers in one way or the other.
CITU division secretary JV Raghavulu criticised the government plans for acquiring the lands by force.