ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Land Acquisition

Need for a More Progressive Discourse

This rejoinder to Dhanmanjiri Sathe’s article “Land Acquisition: Need for a Shift in Discourse?” (EPW, 17 December 2016) points to the mistaken logic of viewing land as a commodity and farmers as economic agents willing to give up their land for fair compensation, arguing that a settlement of the land question purely in market terms would be disastrous for a developing society struggling to address agrarian distress.

In the article titled “Land Acquisition: Need for a Shift in Discourse?” (EPW, 17 December 2016), by Dhanmanjiri Sathe, the author’s main argument is that the extant theories and policies on land acquisition are inadequate—and even flawed—in addressing the acute challenge of land acquisition in contemporary India. As a result, the author believes, farmers are not able to dispose of their lands more remuneratively, and neither is the country able to meet the growing need for land for rapid urban and industrial development, depriving many underdeveloped pockets of the opportunity of such development. The author vehemently argues that farmers have been wronged, that they are now more than willing to sell their lands, and hence cannot be coerced into accepting unremunerative propositions. Developing thriving land markets, which can help farmers realise fair compensation, is the way forward, given that capitalists are ready to shell out higher prices for land. This transition, according to Sathe, demands a new discourse on land acquisition, based on the economic rationality of farmers and a concomitant policy facilitated by an apparently farmer-friendly state.

Land acquisition has been contentious, both from the perspective of the general resistance of farmers to land acquisition and as part of the larger process of agrarian transformation. There is no doubt that the land question has not been addressed adequately either in the capitalist or communist models of agrarian transformation (Amin 2011). Farmers have been an aggrieved lot. There is no denying the author’s contention that a shift in the land discourse is required. However, the major concern is about the nature of the discourse the author proposes, purely from the angle of economic rationality. Given the multidimensional relevance of land, what would be pertinent is to engender a more holistic and progressive debate, one that keeps the larger interests of society in mind, rather than one based on narrow considerations. Settling the land question purely on the market-based rationale is bound to be disastrous for developing societies such as India’s, which are struggling to address the agrarian question amicably. This rejoinder attempts to critically evaluate the author’s arguments in favour of a more liberal land policy and explicate briefly the contours of an alternative debate on the land question.

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Updated On : 8th Feb, 2018
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