No Boundaries: An Extended Chronicle Of
India's Land Acquisition
By Srestha Banerjee
02 August, 2011
Incidents of land grab have stirred the Indian political canvas considerably in recent years. Examples include Singur and Nandigram in West Bengal , POSCO in the Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa, Bhatta Parsual in Uttar Pradesh. The actions are carried out in the name of development, demanding industrial expansion at the cost of fertile land for “public purpose”: a loosely defined term in the country's archaic Land Acquisition Act. It is also often argued that India has substantial agricultural sufficiency and thus such land acquisition does little or no harm to the countries overall agri-production. But if we turn the lenses and view through a wider angle the story is somewhat different.
An account of land acquisition across borders:
While in India , agricultural land is being transferred to, and acquired by corporations from its farmers for the sake of various construction projects including businesses, industries, residential properties etc., at the same time the country's big corporations continue to acquire land outside the nation for developing agribusinesses and cultivating crops to meet the nation's growing demand. Besides business interests, the scramble for land across borders come largely as a response to global food shortage due to drought, population explosion, lack of fertile, arable lands and real and speculative food price increase.
In Africa, Indian farming companies have bought hundreds of thousands of hectares in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal and Mozambique, for the purpose of cultivating rice, sugar cane, maize, lentils, cotton, palm oil, oilseed for their home market and certainly with an eye on a more profitable business. M ore than 80 Indian companies have invested an estimated €1.75billion in buying (and also long term leasing) about 1.8 million hectares of farmland alone in Ethiopia . Such land acquisition takes place through direct negotiations between the Government of the country and Indian businesses with no input or willingness of farmers taken into consideration.
Such “outsourced” agricultural production definitely fit the logic of externalization in economic terms, but it eludes many several environmental and social considerations. Several African nations which are already famine prone and insecure in its own agricultural production, becomes more vulnerable as the fertile lands of their home-ground become agricultural hotspots for global investors. The local population remains impoverished in financial terms too, as in most cases the local population and whose lands are being acquired are replaced by foreign laborers. Moreover as indicated by Lester Brown, as these agribusinesses continue to grab vast amounts of arable lands in the upper Nile Valley of Ethiopia (and also Sudan), which together occupy about three-fourths of the river basin, it significantly limits the water availability in other parts of the Nile Valley, contributing to meager agricultural production in those regions and evoking conflict over water and food.
The paradoxical logic of India 's land acquisition practices within and outside the nation's territory once again exemplifies the preference of profit over people in our society. In both cases, while a minority continues to climb the ladder of prosperity, the fates of farmers remain the same. A farmers cry in the village of Jagatsinghpur , thus resonates a voice in Ethiopia calling for justice beyond borders.
Anon. Seized! The 2008 Land grab for Food and Financial Security. Grain Briefing , October 2008. Accessed July 2011. Available at http://www.grain.org/briefings_files/landgrab-2008-en.pdf
Brown, Lester. When the Nile Runs Dry. The New York Times, June 1, 2011 . Accessed June, 2011. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/02/opinion/02Brown.html?_r=2
Nelson, Dean. India faces colonialism claims over 'land-grab' in Africa . Independent. ie, June 29, 2009 . Accessed June 2011. Available at http://www.independent.ie/world-news/asia-pacific/india-faces-colonialism-claims-over-landgrab-in-africa-1795483.html
Shiva, Vandana. The Great Land Grab, India 's War on Farmers. Aljazeera , June 2011. Accessed June 2011. Available at http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/06/20116711756667987.html
Srestha Banerjee completed PhD in Environmental from University of Delaware, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy.Currently am in India engaged in a short-term project with the Center for Science and Environment, New Delhi, India
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