More than six decades ago, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was shot down in cold blood. The nation sobbed. The world was shocked.
Since Gandhi’s time, there have been many men and women who have tried to mobilize the nation’s human wealth. Some of them were successful, too; but none had even close to the impact that the Mahatma did. None except for maybe one man; Anna Hazare.
Anna Hazare is a Padma Bhushan winner and, more importantly, one of the most prominent social activists in the country. His fame was at its peak during his hunger strike in April 2011, pushing for the Lokpal Bill to be passed. Since then, Hazare has been a constant source of inspiration and an example of morality, especially among the youth. And once again Anna Hazare is making headlines. This time it is a protest against the Land Acquisition Ordinance proposed by the Modi Government.
What is the Land Acquisition Ordinance?
From Day One of the reign of the Modi Government, it was evident that this set of leaders was pro-corporate and planned to introduce radical changes in the business and economic scenario of the nation. And since its accession to the throne, the Bharatiya Janta Party has been widely criticized for not focusing on the growth of the masses, and focusing on making the rich richer.
Much like the policy of Eminent Domain which is prevalent in the United Sates, this ordinance allows the government to seize land from farmers in exchange for a small (usually insufficient) sum of money. The government has amended Section 10(A) of the existing Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act to expand industrial sectors where assessment and consent of land owners will not be required. For five sectors, the consent clause has been removed. So the government will no longer need mandatory 80% consent for land acquisition in those five sectors. This land can then be used for running governmental activities, or even be further sold off to private buyers. Some farmers are alleging that the government is buying land from them cheaply and selling it to corporate at much higher prices.
The Plight of the Indian Farmer:
The government claims to be offering a significant sum of money to farmers who lose their lands, with four times the market value to rural farmers and twice the market value to urban farmers, many believe that the government is not living up to this promise. Also, there is no provision in the act through which these agriculturalists can be gainfully employed once their land is captured.
Despite India having a large agricultural population, with more than 60% of Indians working in the primary sector, this sector is often treated unfairly with the pretext of boosting growth in other sectors of the economy. According to estimates, about 2000 people switch from farming to other activities in India every day. A major portion of this 2000 is due to the lack of monetary incentives and government support they receive. Thankfully for them, activists like Anna Hazare are not afraid of making their voices heard.
Anna’s Take on the Matter:
Anna Hazare organized a two day sit-in at Jantar Mantar on 24th and 25th February. Surprisingly, the turnout at the event was much lower than any of his past sit-ins. However, Hazare said that he wasn’t bothered by low turnouts and he was doing it only to help the farmers, and not for any limelight.
Hazare also compared the ordinance to British laws, which existed in pre-independent India. “The ordinance on land acquisition is as draconian as British laws. It removes the need for seeking consent from farmers before taking away their land in the name of development projects,” said Hazare.
The activist also emphasized on the fact that many people were not aware of the provisions of this ordinance and there was a desperate need to spread messages regarding the changes it might bring to the current Land Acquisition Act, mainly the non-requirement of consent from the party whose land is being acquired.
Anna Hazare was joined at Jantar Mantar by activist Medha Patekar, who has been previously involved in the famous Narmada Bachao Andolan. He has also received support from his ex-right hand man, Arvind Kejriwal, who has always been in favor of protecting the interests of the common man.
If reports are to be believed, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has already met with some aides of Anna Hazare to discuss his demands. If things go as per plan, the previously proposed ordinance will be completely scrapped and a new one will be framed which will keep the interests of all involved parties (especially farmers) in mind while being framed. Our best wishes are with this truly revolutionary man, on a quest to make this nation a better place to survive in.
Picture Credits- Google images
By Lakshaya Soin