K C Tyagi, Land Bill, Indian Express; And Economic Illiteracy In India

By Anang Pal Malik

 

K C Tyagi, JD(U) RS MP, has written an op-ed piece in the Indian Express of 8th April, 2015. The piece must be a compulsory reading in all classes on Economics and Political Science, so that students come to know how their political leaders actually think, what they know of economics, and if leaders with such thinking continue to be in power, where India is headed.

My comments on his piece follow. Portions within double inverted commas and italicised are his, and below them are my comments:

 

The 2014 winter session of Parliament ended on December 23. The land acquisition ordinance was brought in by the NDA government on December 29, displaying a blatant disregard for the people who gave it  a Lok Sabha majority. The timing of the ordinance is testimony to the haste with  which the government has been trying to pass the amended law. The NDA government, which claims to have pro-people credentials, didn’t even wish to dedicate one month to discuss an ordinance like this one, which has far-reaching socio-economic consequences. Land acquisition had finally been made pro-people, at least on paper, to an extent in 2013, after being used like a bulldozer against the marginalised for 100-odd years.

Pro-people? What was done in 2013 was a plan to keep India wretchedly poor forever, with people always on the verge of starvation, industrialisation impossible, and economy an economy of marginal farmers and cowherds.

The amended land acquisition act promulgated in 2013 was brought about not only by  the UPA government, but also by the parties that now comprise the NDA. Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and his party members have yet to explain why the BJP gave its nod to the 2013 land bill if it was as anti-farmer as they now suggest.

The fact that BJP went along with the bill only shows that its Central leadership at the time was just as Leftist in its economic outlook as the rest of political parties in India, and didn’t have stomach for doing right for the fear that it may be called anti-people.

Gadkari’s main argument against the 2013 bill  is in regard to the acquisition of land for the purpose of defence, which he claims it made difficult. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi alluded to this in a speech in the Lok Sabha. However, the 2013 act already exempts defence and national security projects from both the consent clause and social impact assessment (under the urgency clause), making it easier for the government to carry out such projects. Given this, the BJP’s argument is baseless and intended to distract and confuse the public. The BJP must explain why it needs to remove the consent requirement and social impact assessment altogether, if not to benefit the private sector and push for aggressive industrialisation.

How would it be possible to classify each defence project urgent? Wouldn’t courts strike down the whole process on this account alone? But last sentence in his para takes the cake. Whatever employment generation has to be, has to be in private sector only. Government needs downsizing. So if private sector benefits, that would only mean that Indian youth will have a decent chance of a decent job. Of aggressive industrialisation, it is possible only in India, where most people are economic illiterate, that a politician can oppose aggressive industrialisation and still claim to be pro-people, or can still claim to be fit to run for an office.

 

On March 31, Gadkari suggested that land being acquired in rural areas is for irrigation. However, one wonders as to how that land will be of any use when only Rs 1,000 crore has been allotted in this year’s Central budget for nationwide irrigation. Moreover, regardless of the industrial corridors being set up in Delhi and Mumbai, the ordinance will benefit only corporations. Just because an ordinance might affect the middle and lower classes equally doesn’t mean it is pro-poor or neutral. On the contrary, the ordinance now becomes not only anti-poor but anti-middle class as well.

K C tyagi should know that it takes about four years to acquire land in India. Therefore, this year’s allocation for irrigation doesn’t mean anything. And in any case, irrigation is also a state subject. And the MP should know that anything and everything that benefits Corporations, directly benefits the middle class and the poor.

 

Gadkari also lamented that while acquiring land, it is difficult to generate a consensus from 80 per cent of stakeholders for rural development programmes, suggesting that people are not willing to part with their land. But in another instance, he claimed that  people are willing to give up their land as land prices have increased, and by selling it, they make profits. Gadkari’s arguments are contradictory. One wonders what the point of removing the consent clause is if people  are happily giving up their land. Gadkari  must realise that only one of the two is possible —  people are either willing or not.

If K C Tyagi were familiar with real world outside the ptivilieged political class he belongs to, he would know that there are no contradictions here. Once the owners realise that somebody is interested in their land, they would try to maximise the price. And withholding consent is the bargaining handle they have. Otherwise, with landholdings reducing uneconomical, farmers are willing to sell it so that could do something worth its while.

Gadkari also says that land is being acquired for schools. If primary and secondary education is on the government’s priority
list, why has the Centre reduced the budget allotment to education? One would expect  a government acquiring land for education to allot at least more than 5 per cent of GDP  to the cause. The same logical fallacy applies  to his claims that land is being acquired for hospitals, as the amount allotted to healthcare has also steadily reduced. Not only that, his government is also setting the stage for foreign investment in education and healthcare, with profit as the only motive. Therefore his assertion that land is being acquired for schools and hospitals is true only for private players. The public sector is not benefitting from the ordinance. The rural poor have no stake in the projects for which land is to be acquired. Gadkari’s agenda is clear: rob the poor, feed the rich.

K C Tyagi assumes here that this year’s allocation for education and healthcare has any relation with land acquisition. As I said above, any projects now sanctioned will get land only after four years. So allocating them money now would lead to surrender of funds at the end of financial year. And Mr MP, I think we have long ago discovered that Public Sector doesn’t work, and has to be allowed to wither away. If private players run schools and hospitals, they run them better, as I am sure you must have sent your children to private schools only, and must be visiting private hospitals only for your medical needs. And even after keeping India wretchedly poor for 67 years, you have still not been cured of the notion that profit is an ugly word. And the poor have nothing to be robbed off, your policies of 67 years have made that sure, and the rich do not need any feeding. So please avoid the emotional argument and Leftist catch phrases.

Gadkari also suggests that land cannot  be returned as projects are incomplete. It doesn’t occur to him that the government, rather than pressing for a more draconian law to acquire more land, must first finish all stalled projects and make use of all the land already available to it.

If no surplus acquired land were available, the question of returning land to the real owners would not arise. Gadkari expresses concern over the deteriorating condition of the environment. But at the same time, he is calling for changes in the forest act, which is not yet fully enforced given various bureaucratic and practical issues. He is not only preparing the ground for the largescale eviction of tribals and other marginalised groups who use forests but also pushing for deforestation for the establishment of foreign industries that would pollute and devastate the ecology.

K C Tyagi has no knowledge of projects. He doesn’t know the land acquired for one project can not be transferred to some other project. That is against law. And projects are incomplete because of the permission-ocracy likes of K C Tyagi have created. So, when you think you have all clearances, along comes some other agency to stall your project. And no, just because you claim so, it doesn’t become true that tribals are being evicted or forests are being destroyed. They are not. And foreign industries are just not interested in India. They have no plans to go mad chasing the clearnace and permission givers of India.

“To compound this, Gadkari and his  party are not concerned about questions pertaining to food security, mass destruction of crops due to natural calamities and the unprecedented reduction in the number of people engaged in agriculture. The BJP is not concerned about how to distribute relief funds to farmers affected by calamities. It is clueless as to whether events like lightning, strong winds, hailstorms and crop destruction by animals should be regarded as natural calamities or not. It has been more than 67 years since Independence, yet the condition of Indian farmers has gone from bad to worse. But these issues are not what Gadkari is concerned about. Instead, he worries about whether setting up an industry is a crime. Setting up industry is not a crime, but doing so by imperilling the poor definitely is.”

Food security? The MP doesn’t know that we are already surplus in wheat and sugarcane. There is glut of potato in West Bengal. And we are still left with more unirrigated land than irrigated. And reduction in the number of people engaged in agriculture is the most welcome sign, because that shows that industrialisation is progressing well. And relief funds are distributed by state government, not by the Central government. And in any case, how is that related to land acquistion bill? Is a government that has been in power only for 10 months responsible for what happened over 67 years? And setting up an industry benefits the poor the most, but to know that one needs basic knowledge of economics.

All in all, a piece full of words but lacking in any substance. In fact this is an attempt to mislead and to incite anger against the government.

And the fact that Indian express published this piece shows that it selects articles based on names of authors, not on their contents.

 

Read the article here at IE.

 

To read the definitive article by Anang Pal Malik on the subject of land acquisition, go here.