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.