Gandhian takes up cause of landless labour
Corporate houses to pay a nominal rent of Rs. 60 an acre per annum Government failed to publicise original GR among farmers, says Vaidya
AHMEDABAD: Gandhian and leader of mass movements Chunibhai Vaidya has cautioned that Gujarat may soon become a breeding ground for naxalite-type bloody movements if the Government "squanders" wasteland and village common plots by handing them over to big industrial houses.
Taking their cue from the Narmada Bachao Andolan, more than 40 voluntary organisations in different parts of the State have formed the Jameen Bachao Andolan, (Save Land Agitation) under Mr. Vaidya to fight against allocation of land corporate houses, denying benefits to landless labourers and poor farmers.
"Does this Government want to take Gujarat the Bihar-way and encourage the naxalite movement? So far we have not heard of Gujarat’s farmers and farm labourers committing suicide, but the May 17, 2005, Government Resolution (GR) is a death warrant served on millions of poor, landless, farm labourers, Dalits and marginalised people who may be forced to commit suicide," Mr. Vaidya cautioned.
The controversial GR allows District Collectors to lease government wasteland up to 2,000 acres to corporate houses for 20 years - the lease is renewable for another 20 years - to encourage "corporate farming." The corporate houses were not only asked to pay a nominal rent of Rs. 60 an acre per year payable after five years, but the GR also authorised the lease holders to "mortgage" the land to banks for loans. "This may be the only case in the world where public property is permitted to be hypothecated for private profits," Mr. Vaidya pointed out.
Not only wasteland, but in several villages in the border district of Kutch, land used for grazing and other common activities was allocated to corporate houses for farming as well as industrial purposes. The Andolan pointed out that thousands of acres of land, earlier used for grazing, was allocated to the Adanis in the port town of Mundra and some 10,000 acres of land to Israel-based companies in Khavda, both in Kutch district.
The Andolan has demanded that the land be allocated to the 51-lakh-odd landless families at two to five acres each. Mr. Vaidya refused to buy the Government’s argument that labourers would be in no position to develop land for financial reasons and said if corporate houses could mortgage the land to the banks, the same permission could be given to the poor allottees.
In fact, a GR of 1987 was adopted to achieve the objective but for 18 years hardly any action was taken. On March 16, 2005, the Chief Secretary sent a letter to all Collectors asking them to take immediate steps to implement the 1987 GR, but within two months the GR of May 17, 2005, was issued asking them to allocate lands to corporate houses.
The Andolan also does not subscribe to the Government "excuse" that the new GR was issued because enough applications were not received from farmers and land labourers for allotment of waste and fallow land. The Andolan told the Principal Secretary in the Revenue Department, Vilasini Ramchandran, that the Government failed to publicise the original GR among the farmers and land labourers. The Andolan has agreed to assist the government machinery to motivate farmers if the State suspends the implementation of last year’s GR for at least five years.
Following the Andolan’s threat to organise a `rail and raasta roko agitation’ at Samkhiyari, considered the `entrance’ to Kutch district on May 17, Ms. Ramachandran invited the Andolan for discussions on Monday.