Dear Middle class of India,

It is now time for you to make up your mind. There is an important topic you have avoided discussing so far, and it is high time you did it now.

The topic you need to talk about is restriction you put on farmers, preventing them from selling their land for non-agricultural purposes. No, please don’t change the topic or use euphemisms. Your romantic view of farming is directly responsible for keeping farmers in penury and bound to their land.

Because of your support for those rules, farmers cannot sell their land. If an industrialist wants to set up a factory in a rural area, he cannot approach the farmers directly and cut a deal. He has to approach the government to acquire land for him. Because of you, local politicians can run reigns of terror over entire districts, because they have feudal power over which land gets acquired and which doesn’t. Your support for these rules is directly responsible for thousands of crores worth of corruption in India.

Your support for this idiotic restriction forces landless labourers to travel long distances, to cities in different states to get seasonal jobs. If you had let industries come up in backward areas, they would have got jobs close to their homes.

Your support is directly responsible for the stunted and haphazard growth of our cities. You are responsible for not letting small towns in India develop. These restrictions put inordinate amount of pressure on large cities and have made them unlivable. You are directly responsible for that, and if you own a house or piece of land in those cities, you are directly benefiting from the cruelty you are inflicting on farmers.

No, please don’t give me excuses for why you do not support lifting this restriction fully. I have heard those and I don’t care. I don’t care for what your theoretical ideal of village life is. These are the facts. 60% of our people are working on an activity that contributes only 30% to the GDP. There are more farmers than needed, producing more food than can be consumed, using land less efficiently than necessary. There really is no way to get a better income for the farmers without making food more expensive for the poor. Don’t try to juggle the numbers. There really is no way. The only way out is for us to have fewer farmers working more productively on less land. But the rules you are supporting make it tougher for the transition from agriculture to industry to take place gracefully.

I am accusing you, the middle-class Indian, with good reason. Usually the reason for the existence of idiotic laws is that some interest groups benefit from them. This is true of laws related to agricultural land too. Corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and land sharks derive their power from this rule. Industrialist prefer to grab land through politicians rather than buy it and leftists use the opportunity to extract their pound of flesh in the name of protecting the interests of the poor. And people like you who have no idea of village life, whose parents or grand parents have abandoned a lifestyle in favour of city dwelling, still continue to insist on romanticizing the village and agriculture. It is this attitude that makes it almost impossible to find any columnist or editor who will say that farmers should be allowed to sell their land.

The root of so many of the problems you find in India lies in this problem, whether it is the BMIC or Singur. The next time you want to ask someone “Why have the benefits of liberalization not reached the poor even after 15 years of liberalization?” ask yourself “Do I support the right of farmers to sell their land to anyone they want?” If your answer is “No”, then the you have found the answer to your first question. It is because of you.

65 thoughts on “Dear Middle class of India,

  1. Vaijayanthi Ben

    ravi bhai, aapke website ne blogbhumika par chaar chaand laga diye… hum aapke bahut bade fan hai..

    kya aap humaare awaards mein naaminate honaa chahte hai?

    (kindly excuse, aap hindi bolte hai na?)

  2. Ritwik

    Ahh why am I always so late in coming across these posts. Ravi, if I raise some valid questions, will you reply?

    1. ” Usually the reason for the existence of idiotic laws is that some interest groups benefit from them ”

    Very simplistic assumption, and one that may not always be true. Very often, idiotic laws exist because they were made at a time when a certain line of thought was assumed to be correct, and the turn of events since then went against this line of thought. Interest groups do exist, and they do exercise control over policy formulation and implementation, but do you not see that the kind of argument you give is equivalent to saying – vested interested group = larger majority of netas/babus = intelligent people who exploit the system to their benefit ; people with good intentions = unintelligent and powerless netas/babus = people who would like to change the system but just can’t or very often don’t even know why it has to be changed. Do you not see the obvious flaw in such an argument? Are intelligence and power mutually exclusive to good intentions? I oppose the law that gives a monopoly to the government over the sale of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes and think it must be immediately revoked. However, I also apreciate the fact that this law came about not because of the middle-class Indian’s romantic notion of ‘villager = food producer = agriculturist who should remain that way at all costs”, but because of this line of thinking – “Land owner and land tiller are different entities. Most farmers do not own the land they work on. If the sale of agricultural land is allowed for non-agricultural purposes, the zamindars will sell off the land to the industrialists, and the farmers who currently till the land and have farming as their only skill will be left without any avenues for income. If however, the sale is for agricultural purposes, the buyer will still to have to employ some people to till the land, and since these guys have been working on this land for such a long time, they would be the obvious choice and will keep their jobs and their livelihood.” It is quite obvious that land reforms are also the consequence of a smiliar line of thinking.

    2. The 60% – 30% statistic, per capita productivity etc.

    Your logic and facts here are flawless, and ultimately, any strong economy will have to have lesser than one-third of its population employed in agriculture, contributing a percentage of the GDP that is very close to the percentage of people employed in agriculture. However, I would like to examine the history of the progressive industrialization of the currently developed economies. UK, Us etc. were all agrarian economies once, and then the industrial revolution happened. Did the shift of land and manpower from agriculture to manufacturing that happened as a consequence follow the principles of libertarianism/liberal democracy? This is not rhetoric, I’m asking because I genuinely don’t know. The second half of the 19th century, especially around the turn of the century, was a phase of rapid industrialization in the US. The phase was also marked by large-scale fraud, and perhaps, also coercion, courtesy the robber barons. Will a country as large as India ever industrialize rapidly if all tenets of a liberal democracy were followed? If the government was to pull out of this acquisition business(and I think it should do so with immediate effect), can we be certain that industrialists will not indulge in coercion or fraud to acquire land? Ofcourse, there are laws to deal with faulty business procedures, but is the government’s responsibility only limited to taking action once a crime has been committed, or does it also include some pre-emptive measures aimed at the reducing the chances of such a crime taking place at all? Please note that I’m only trying to think about the few arguments that form the basis of government intervention in land as well as other business. Personally, I feel that the demerits of the existing law far over-ride its possible benefits and that it must go. However, I am surprised that in hardly any posts on the blogosphere is an atempt made to evaluate or analyse or even acknowledge the logic behind the opposing arguments.

  3. khajoor

    >> So, the logical conclusion is that we need to invade Pakistan, kill all its people and occupy their land?


    Whattt ??!!!! I visited this blog because, well, its famous and many bloggers link to it. And I find this in the first post I read (well, its a comment by you). And this is what I read… middle-class bashing apart. (If you note, middle class is caught up with laws and taxes and just sustaining the current quality of living.. it just cannot be aware of the plight of everyone, can it?) Are you crazy ? Really, do you know what you are speaking ?

  4. khajoor


    Just go out there, try to see what typical middle-class people talk about, their problems, etc. They are caught in a place that their names suggest – middle. Its just too difficult to even live, there are so many things to do. The rich throw money and get their work done. The welfare state looks after the poor (supposedly). We neither have the money power, nor the lip-service.
    Recently, I had to apply for transferring my vehicle from one state to another. Try doing it, seriously. Without paying a lot of money to the agent (a part of which goes to the RTO people).

    Do you think that the commentors here who are praising you (Ravi, great post. Ya, so true.. poor farmers, etc) are really concerned about this. Or are not a part of that middle-class themselves.

    The best way sometimes, is to sit in a “permit room” (in case you are from Mumbai) in the suburbs in the evenings. Not that its a good habit to overhear, but I did get to hear lot of interesting conversations of common middle class “uncles” worried about their kids, their career, their life etc. And yeah, the beer does help too.

  5. khajoor

    >>>Corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and land sharks derive their power from this rule. Industrialist prefer to grab land through politicians rather than buy it and leftists use the opportunity to extract their pound of flesh in the name of protecting the interests of the poor. And people like you who have no idea of village life, whose parents or grand parents have abandoned a lifestyle in favour of city dwelling, still continue to insist on romanticizing the village and agriculture.

    Blame for –
    industrialist – grab land through politicians.
    corrupt politician – make money via land sale
    leftist – extract their pound of flesh
    middle-class – fantasizing about village life 🙂

    Now, moving on,

    Some of us vote to put out corrupt politicians out of power. But our votes hardly matter. Those who dont vote know it already – that their votes dont matter.

    Its not as if the middle class is not concerned. But they hardly matter in this socialist state, where anyone with a little more money is evil and exploitative.

  6. Himanshu Gupta

    Hi Ravi,

    May be i’m too late in commenting but i’ve found your post today only through Amit Verma’s blog. I’ve been reading through all the comments and still not able to figure out answers to these two questions:

    1) I understand why this concept of eminent domain was introduced by Jawaharlal Nehru to acquire land for building roads, bridges for betterment of a large section of Society. However, why this rule regarding ban of agricultural land for any non-agricultural purposes? What was the logic behind introducing such law in first place?

    2) Recently, I’ve heard that Mukesh Ambani has been acquiring land in Navi Mumbai directly from Farmers. Similar is true of few land deals which are taking place directly between the businesses and the farmers in Haryana and some parts of Orissa. In fact, there have been quite a few editorials in print media regarding this issue that government shouldn’t come in between and let buyer and seller directly do the transaction. But if according to you, such an archaic law is in place, How come these deals in Haryana and Orissa are taking place? I remember watching a program on CNBC few weeks ago in which farmers were supposed to be enjoying their riches after selling their land to industrialists for few crores.

    Please answer these two questions as i believe your post demands a complete answer to related issues too.

  7. BharatKumar Bhandary(BK)

    The Mumbai HC on Thursday ordered criminal proceedings to be initiated against 169 institutes in the state for falsely claiming to be affiliated to universities and charging fees accordingly.

    A few of these institutes are affiliated to the Dnyaneshwar Vidyapeeth and Rai University that had falsely claimed to be deemed universities.

    Kohinoor Technical Institute, owned by former CM and Sena MP Manohar Joshi, is among the colleges affiliated to the Vidyapeeth.

    None of these institutes are recognised by the All India Council for Technical Education. Dombivili resident Dinesh Kamath had filed a petition in 2005, asking the court to take action against these institutes.

    We should really appreciate the work of Mr Dinesh Kamath ,a 75 year old freedom fighter social worker and activist.After filing the PIL he was attacked twice by political goons,but he did not bent down to the atrocities and stood firm on the PIL, HC judgement is true victory of Law and Order in this country, few politicians take things for granted and fool us. Crores of rupees have been extorted from the people in the name of education.

    You may contact my friend Mr Dinesh Kamath on
    Mobile +91 9867371331 Landline +91-251-2821711
    and congradulate him,Youngsters and like minded people like us should take inspiration from him,get united and we should strive for the improvement of the society.


    BharatKumar Bhandary(BK)

  8. Narendra Shenoy

    Your blog has been a revelation. I don’t normally think of such issues (like most of my ilk) because they look so bleak and depressing. I guess its time we started addressing some of them.

    Your succinct argument for the removal of restrictions on the sale of farm land is flawless. In fact, I think you have convincingly proved that there was malicious intent in the framing of this law.

    Sadly, in a democracy, it is possible to delude the majority with the most specious of arguments, even when their interests are evidently harmed. We have a whole bunch of such examples. The general governmental policy on slums for one.

    Slums merely allow people to live in extreme squalor at low prices, thus making available menial labor for the well heeled. Had there been no tolerance for slums, people would have been forced to pay a decent wage to workers because the cost of living would be unbearable otherwise. Today it is possible in Bombay to hire a full time maid servant for about 3000 rupees a month. Seventy US. And she has to shell out 1200 rupees for a “kholi” ten feet by eight, corrugated sheets for wall and ceiling (Bombay is 36C in the shade these days) leaving her with just enough to eat and pay for cable tv. And she still votes for the local bum who promised her that he would save her hut from demolition. She would, of course. The “cleansing of the Augean stables” would be curtains for her. Ergo she will always vote for the bum. Ergo, all bums would essentially have the same policies. Ergo, slums will always remain. Ergo, she will always live in squalor.

    It occurs to me that we have far too much democracy for the good of the people. The alternative, dictatorship, is even scarier so I guess we’re lucky we aren’t having any revolutions just yet but it sure looks to me like its a matter of time.

    A more optimistic friend yesterday was arguing that rapidly spreading prosperity and education would suddenly bring about a “paradigm shift”. I for one fervently hope so.

  9. Ali K

    the middle class indian cannot even go and vote or register for the same. like me like 80 % of the people of my generation.
    nobody cares beyond wearing tight fitting jeans and snazzy mobile phones. or getting wasted in a bar/pub on saturdays.
    nobody cares if polio or leprosy do not exist anywhere in the world except in india.

    you care ? you wanna do something ?
    go ..fight an election…become a politician….become a chief minister or the prime minister….and then change the world into what you want.

    thats the tough part. getting into the ring where the fight is.
    till then we can only sit and dejectedly mull and crib.

  10. Dilip

    There seems to be huge dollops of fan-boyism around (Narendra Shenoy, Himanshu Gupta). I believe Ritwik has the most interesting counter-factual reply to your post. I came away impressed.

  11. Pingback: Sleisha Cuppax Fundaes (w)Only » Blog Archive » Agriculture, Lending, and the Middle Class

  12. Ramesh


    this is ramesh, maintaining a weekly called STALIN in vizag, now i want help from you to support me because i want to stand against corruption in my country and everybody is getting against me so plz help me.. i hope this message had reached you.. don’t forget to reply for this because it is so important for me and also for you as a citizen of this nation..

  13. Ramesh


    this is ramesh, maintaining a weekly called STALIN in vizag, now i want help from you to support me because i want to stand against corruption in my country and everybody is getting against me so plz help me.. i hope this message had reached you.. don’t forget to reply for this because it is so important for me and also for you as a citizen of this nation..
    reply me at

  14. unkonownDVstudent

    Mr Dinesh Kamath is stupid . Abroad all type of universities get chance to give best education and so did rai and dnyaneshwar vidyapeeth tired.
    lakhs of student passed are having no probes it becoz of guys who have no work like Diensh make fool around..
    its no harm in taking education or educating,
    problem of fees that is right but students of these universities should complain to university or the college board to reduce fees in this what can a court do.
    if its govt also its costly.
    so y dont stop donations and entrance and percentage bearers in govt college. i think open and autonomous universities are helping the needy and poor and middle class students and they should.
    down down with ACIT/UGC norms.
    any how dinesh si not against education from
    autonomous as inclduded above he is against the fees again this is to be between students and the college.NON of our business.
    GOOD LUCK DV/RAI universiteis

  15. Rohit Kumar

    You have valid concerns, but I think your diagnosis of the problem is incorrect… for a couple of reasons:

    1) You are only talking about the land owing agricultural class – This is a small segment of the overall population dependent on agriculture. In fact, land owing farmers are usually well off. The real problem is faced by farmers/ labourers who work on other’s land, rent it out.

    2) Zoning and land-use restrictions are implemented across the world

    3) The real problem is not the ability to sell land but free access to markets. Though APMC Acts (Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Acts) are slowly being amended across states, many states still restrict farmers from selling directly to producers outside of mandis. I have seen the exploitation happening first hand in a mandi in Bijnor, UP during a project I worked. On paper, buyers in the market are supposed to bid for the produce, but there was clear collusion at work! Maximum bids had already been pre-decided. Also, contract farming is strictly controlled. All these things restrict freedom and slow down technology transfer.

    Moreover, the middle class does not want to pay enough for the produce and the government does not have the fiscal capacity to subsidize food like it happens in the US and EU. The moment prices rise, there is a huge hulla-gulla..

    4) Lastly, you can’t just take people out of agriculture if there aren’t any other job opportunities. Just allowing them to sell land is not going to make this happen. What you need is strong policy support to manufacturing growth.

    I am not saying that we should not question government intervention in land purchases… All I am saying is that it is not a solution to the agrarian problem you are trying to solve.

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