Sunday, May 22, 2011

In India, fresh clashes over rural land as farmers stand up to government

Simon Denyer in the Washington Post: All over India, farmers are coming into conflict with the government as it tries to satisfy the country’s insatiable hunger for land for industry, infrastructure and urban housing. And the decades-old way of doing business — the government seizing the land under a British colonial law, paying a token compensation to farmers and then bullying people into submission — just isn’t working anymore.

Projects worth tens of billions of dollars have been held up as farmers, backed by local politicians and empowered by India’s vibrant television news channels, have found their voice — and said no. “A large process of industrialization is underway in India, second only to China in the world,” said historian and political commentator Mahesh Rangarajan. “But here, the people who are having their land taken from them also happen to be voters.’’

Industrialization on this scale, in an intensely competitive democracy and in the information age, is unprecedented globally — a country of 1.1 billion people racing to maintain a rapid rate of economic growth, running at more than 8 percent.

But the mix has been made more explosive by the fact that much of the best land for industry and infrastructure is fertile and densely populated, close to cities, roads and water supplies — just the kind of land farmers do not want to part with….

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