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Thank you Mr PM for talking about farmers, but...

By Bansi Shukla
March 24, 2015 13:48 IST
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Farmers are juggling with thousand other problems apart from the Land Acquisition Bill. Who will discuss them? Rather, when will be they discussed, asks Bansi Shukla.

On Sunday, March 22, Prime Minister Narendra Modi voiced his thoughts about the farmers of India on his radio show, Mann ki Baat.

His prime focus was to address the issues linked to farmers and their families.

Stating that he was well aware about the difficulties farmers were facing due to unseasonal rains, he assured them that necessary steps will be taken in due course of time and that his government is and always was pro-farmer.

He criticised people who knew nothing about the ground reality of farmers but showed as if they did!

While talking about the development of the nation and agriculture, he appealed to farmers to support the new Land Acquisition Bill, which has been stranded in Parliament.

So is the prime minister really concerned about farmers? Was he actually talking in favour of the farmers or was he talking in favour of the Bill?

The debate over these questions has been on since the show was aired. The line between the two is too thin to jump to conclusions for now.

Where many support Modi, there are many more against him.

Opposition parties are leaving no stone unturned to attack Modi and his party. They are accusing him of playing with farmers's feelings. But again, one cannot trust those who themselves are notorious for betrayal, right? So who will decide?

We will get back to this question once we understand the relation between the Land Acquisition Bill and the farmers.

For beginners, till 2013, land acquisition in India was governed under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. This act refers to the process of land acquisition by the central or state government for various infrastructure and economic growth initiatives.

As it was restricted to industry bodies and provided no compensation to farmers who often cultivated the land, but were not officially owners of the same, modification was the need of the hour.

Hence on January 1, 2014, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 came into force.

Though changes were made, the act was still brimming with loopholes and mistakes.

Subsequently, on December 31, 2014, the new government passed an ordinance with an official mandate to 'meet the twin objectives of farmer welfare; along with expeditiously meeting the strategic and developmental needs of the country.'

The government passed the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha on March 10, 2015.

Leaving behind other aspects of the new Bill, let us focus on its impact on the farmers.

The government showcases itself as a knight in shining armour for the poor farmer.

In the new Act, it has decided to bring about a uniform central policy which will benefit farmers with higher compensation, resettlement and rehabilitation.

This pro-farmer feature was missing earlier. So what is missing now -- Social Impact Assessment.

By omitting the social assessment part, the government has very smartly removed the part which had the potential to become the stumbling block in the future.

In the earlier law, the assessment was meant to find out how many people will be impacted. So, apart from the land owner, all those who are dependent on the land also needed to be compensated. But the new ordinance ensures that only land owners will be compensated.

Now only the prime minister can tell how this move is pro-farmer!

Anyway, the farmers are juggling with a thousand other problems apart from the Land Acquisition Bill. Who will discuss them? Rather, when will be they discussed?

Although India is the second-largest irrigated country in the world after China, why is only one-third of the cropped area under irrigation?

From not being able to buy high-yield variety seeds for cultivation to having inadequate storage facilities, many issues of concern remain unsettled and unanswered!

On the whole, the farmers still remain unsatisfied and helpless.

Thank you, Prime Minister for discussing the land acquisition issue with farmers.

I hope your government will soon take more pro-farmer decisions concerning other significant issues as well!

Bansi Shukla is a regular listener of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Mann ki Baat programme on All India Radio.

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