Friday, July 29, 2011

Dr.Aeyesha Khan & issues in Gujarat

On 28th July, I attended this lecture by Dr Aeyesha Khan, Sr.Assistant Editor - Indian Express -Ahmedabad.Lecture was organised by CSS, Center for Social Studies - Surat
During her lecture, she came out with following " concerns" about Gujarat, arising out of the agitation against land acquisition by farmers in Mahuva - Saurashtra
1. Land acquisition move by Gujarat government for a cement plant by Nirma group near Mahuva in Saurashtra is being opposed by the local farmers.This movement is being led by local BJP MLA and is supported by BKS [ Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, inspired by RSS], Khedut Samaj, [ affiliated to Congress party],Congress party, Chunibhai Vaidya [ 90 year old Gandhian from Ahmedabad], Sanat Mehta [ 80 year old socialist from Vadodara] and many others
Inspite of such all round support,
why such movement has failed to trigger a pan Gujarat movement/agitations against land acquisition in general and against BJP govt led by Narendra Modi in particular?
2.Why media has failed to give adequate coverage to this movement?
3.Why PATELS have not joined this movement?
4. Why farmers from other parts of Gujarat whose lands are being acquired, are not coming together to form a joint front against such moves [ she sited examples from Umbergaon,Dahej, Hazira,Bhavnagar etc]
5.Why urban Gujarati middle class is a silent spectator to the plights of small farmers?
6.If anti land acquisition movement in Singur could overthrow a government in West Bengal,why can't such pan Gujarat movement think of overthrowing present BJP government in 2012 on such an issue?
7.Why Narendra Modi/BJP were not sacking their Mahuva MLA for agitiating against his own government?

As I was not given much time to reply to many of her "concerns",I have listed my replies here on this blog.
1.Very few Gujarati farmers, solely depend on farms for lively hoods.They have dairy co operatives to support incomes.Some family members will be having jobs/small businesses to support farm incomes.Agriculture,businesses and industries are closely woven in the fabric of Gujarati community.Every one appreciates the need for land for industry etc.Every one is fully aware of the " valuations" that it brings to the area.
No where in Gujarat, the government has forcibly grabbed any one's land.Movements are sparked generally, when there is undue show of force by the state or a sense of wide spread injustice among large sections of society.
2.She informed that " Gujarat Samachar" , an influential daily from Ahmedabad had completely blanked this event.She stated though that " Divya Bhaskar", another pan Gujarat daily had extensivey covered the agitation, so did her own news paper.I added that local dailies in Surat like " Gujrat Mitra" had reported extensively on this agitation.
Her concern of " lack of media attention" appeared to be restricted to Gujarat Samachar.
3.Why Patels, an influential landed gentry in Gujarat have not joined the movement? Patels did join the freedom movement in very large numbers, led by Sardar Patel! Patels or any other people will support/join a movement if it is just and affects very large number of people.Sporadic cases of injustices can not spark a state wide movement.Especially when the State is perceived as working effectively and honestly.
4.Why farmers from other parts of the state, whose lands are being acquired are not coming together for a state wide movement? This is answered in [3] above.
5.Why urban middle class is a silent spectator to this plight of farmers? Urban middle class in Gujarat [ and in many other states] has been part of the process of building a consensus around the idea that India needs to move quickly from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy.India needs to suck out surplus labour from rural area so that [i] Wages in rural sectors go up [ii] Farm sector takes to mechanisation,thus improving farm productivity [iii] Industrial sectors get adequate man power for labour intensive manufacturing hubs, that create wealth ,which in turn can alleviate poverty.
Since 1991, this model has been accepted as an alternative model to the Statist model of the socialists, that was in vogue from 1947 o 1991. Land acquisition process, if fair and transparent will not spark a movement [ or a revolution!] because majority of the people are agreed on aforesaid issue.
6.If an anti land acquisition movement in WB could overthrow a government in WB, why can't such a movement in Gujarat overthrow Narendra Modi in the elections, scheduled in 2012?
This is THE ISSUE ! You want to build a people's movement around the agenda to overthrow a man who is being repeatedly elected by the majority of voters.People are aware of such [hidden] agenda and hence are not joing in such movements.They of course will join, if they too think that Narendra Modi should be voted out.At present that is not the case.But that is the case at present for the UPA II in Delhi! reason why large number of people [ including Patels!] are joing the several movements across the country against this corrupt and incompetent government.
7. Why Narendra Modi or BJP were not sacking this MLA from their own party for leading this agitation against his own government?
Simple.Narendra Modi and BJP may be thinking that the man is right ! rather than arguing, quarreling or going to media, they may be trying to find a solution, acceptable to all in this issue.
It appeared that the lady belongs to that section of the media which some how wants to FIX Narendra Modi.


  1. As a student of Economics I can say that Agriculture sector contributes about 15% of national GDP while more than half (52%) of the people are working in this sector. This is a clear case if disguised unemployment where proportion of people dependent of agriculture needs to come down and this can only happen when other sectors of economy, especially industry will grow. We already have higher share of services and there is a view point that large employment will only be possible through manufacturing focus. For this to happen, land of industry is a necessary evil and all developed nations have passed through such phases. However, our land acquisition laws are of colonial times and need to be amended where there is more space given to direct negotiation between private sector and farmers where state role is only of regulation.

  2. Dear Akahsbhai,Thank you for your comments.
    You are right.We have been part of the agriculture based rural economy for millennia.
    Process of industrialisation set in motion wef 1950 has gathered its own momentum now.We can not and should not try and reverse it.
    The localised agitations across the country are against land acquuisitions through unfair means.Once this is remedied,such protests are bound to die down.Fond hopes of some of our friends, that such protests will spark the prairie fires of revolutions are misplaced.
    I would also welcome your views on labour reforms.Can we have more liberal laws so that an industry can hire more people and pay better wages? This can happen, if employers are allowed the freedom to fire a person if not needed.

  3. I agree with Akash. To compensate for the loss of land to industry, we have to increase agricultural productivity on the rest of the land. The fears of land lost to industry are a little exaggerated. just look at the figures of land devoted to agriculture, that to industry and the same that is lying fallow. Land devoted to industry is miniscule. Such fears are the reason for politicians and bureaucrats to come muscling in where they are clearly not wanted.