Indian laws to hurt farmers

Rina Chandran –
Farmers and activists are protesting legislative efforts in two south Indian states that would make it easier to acquire land for infrastructure projects, as the battle for scarce land in the country becomes more contentious.
Andhra Pradesh state will introduce a law to accelerate land acquisitions for “public purposes”, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said over the weekend.
Neighbouring Telangana state last week passed a law that drops the federal requirements for public consensus and a social impact study for land acquired for infrastructure projects.
“Telangana’s new law shuts the doors on farmers and other vulnerable communities who depend on the land for their livelihood,” said Kiran Kumar Vissa at Rythu Swarajya Vedika, an umbrella organisation of non-profits focused on agriculture.
“It puts all the power in the hands of the state and wealthy land owners. The state will become nothing but a real estate agent for corporations.”
His organisation has held protests in Telangana’s capital Hyderabad, and plans a statewide campaign against the law, he said.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao defended the new law, saying India’s 2013 Land Acquisition Act had slowed Telangana’s development projects.
“It is not possible to do development projects without taking land. We have a right to amend the act,” Rao said.
Land-related conflict is the main reason behind stalled industrial and development projects in India, affecting millions of people and putting billions of dollars of investment at risk, according to a recent report.
Federal law requires consensus to buy land, a social impact assessment, rehabilitation for those displaced, and compensation up to four times the market value.
States, including Rajasthan and Gujarat, have introduced laws that dilute some of the federal law’s provisions.
Activists say states’ ability to bypass these requirements sets a dangerous precedent, dismantling vital checks and balances.
The All India Kisan Sabha, a union fighting for peasants’ and farmers’ rights, has also held protests.
India has introduced several land laws in the past decade to give the vulnerable more rights, but many of these laws are diluted and do not protect poor farmers enough, activists say.
—Thomson Reuters Foundation