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The Big Picture – Farmers back in focus: Why has the discourse changed?

Summary:

In the past, over 20 years, ever since the economic liberalisation process began, the political

discourse had turned away from rural issues to the urban and middle class concerns. The

political parties have increasingly realised the importance of middle class as a vote bank and

even in elections one could see the efforts to woo them. Many people had felt that due to

this shift rural and farmer related issues had taken a back seat. Meanwhile in the last few

years great efforts have been put in to bring in the new land rehabilitation law. UPA

government in 2013 had brought this law with consensus. The new government which has

proposed some amendments has sought to break the consensus.

Some experts say that politicisation of the issue is going to hurt the farmers’ cause rather

than helping them. This land issue has brought all the opposition together. The land

acquisition act of 1894 was created with the purpose of facilitating acquisition by the

government of privately held land for public purposes. Under the colonial LAA, private

interest, rather than public purpose, dictated the land acquisition process. People affected by

land acquisition received a pittance by way of compensation.

Opposition parties in the parliament are opposing the Land Acquisition Bill in the present

form and are demanding some changes. They say that the bill is Anti farmer. Coming under

such huge pressure, the government had brought in some changes. But the stalemate over

the issue still continues. The methodology that is being used to bring in the changes is also

being criticised.

The opposition has also alleged that the government has killed the spirit of the original Bill by

doing away with the provision of seeking a social impact assessment and the requirement to

get the prior consent of 70% of land owners before the acquisition of agricultural land. The

new bill aims to relax some of the provisions in the Right to Fair Compensation and

Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 passed by the

previous Congress-led UPA.