News / Asia

India Witnesses Growing Conflict Over Land

Multimedia

Audio
Anjana Pasricha

In India, protests by farmers about land acquisition in the country's most populated state have focused attention on the growing conflict about land, as the economy modernizes. The growing resistance by rural communities about giving up their land for industrial expansion is throwing up new challenges for India.

The violent protests in the northern state, Uttar Pradesh, earlier this month were sparked by demands by farmers for higher compensation for land taken from them to build a highway connecting New Delhi with the tourist hub, Agra, home to the Taj Mahal. Three farmers were killed in the demonstration.

The clashes are the latest in a series of protests which have erupted in many parts of the country about efforts to acquire farmland for infrastructure projects or industry.

As India industrializes, businesses are in search of more land to build factories. The government is under pressure to quickly improve rickety infrastructure and build more highways, power stations and railways to meet the needs of an expanding economy.

The only free land available is populated, fertile farm land across rural India. Moving farmers and tribal communities off the land is not always proving to be easy.  

Farmers complain

Some farmers complain that compensation given for their land is too low. And, they worry about loss of their livelihood in a country where two thirds of the billion-plus people live off the land.

Devinder Sharma of the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security in New Delhi says promises of employment in the new industries do not materialize for the bulk of the farmers whose land is taken away. He says many of them are driven to an uncertain future in cities.  

He says the new economy cannot sustain the kind of employment which farming provides in a populous country.

"No industry or group of industries can provide the kind of jobs or the scale of jobs India needs," Sharma said. "In a country which has 600 million farmers including their families, I don't think any industry has the capability or even industrial sector has the capability to provide even jobs to even one-tenth of that population."

However, businesses argue that an expanding industry can provide millions of new jobs and transform India to an industrialized nation.

Hurdles

The hurdles in acquiring land are slowing down investment and industrial expansion. Mining and steel projects proposed by big companies, such as ArcelorMital, Posco, and Vedanta Resources, are in hiatus as efforts are made to resolve conflicts with local populations. Plans for new power plants, roads and special economic zones to promote trade are facing similar hurdles.

An economist at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Anjan Roy, says the issue is complex and needs answers which can address the interests of both sides. He says one of the suggestions is to make the displaced rural communities stakeholders in the new industries.

"Possibly giving them some stake, for example while putting up land for a new mine, giving them a stake in the mine, or some kind of shareholding in the industrial units which are coming up, that kind of gives a solution. One has to try out many solutions, a combination of them," said Roy.

It is widely believed that Maoist rebels – regarded as India's biggest internal security threat – are gaining influence as they tap the growing resentment in the countryside about land acquisition issues.

Reports that local officials often collude with business interests to take away land from villagers against their will has deepened such resentment.

Many food analysts also worry that handing over large chunks of farmland to industry could spark a food security crisis in a country which has a large population to feed and where spiraling food prices already pose a worry for millions of poor people.       

Government stand

Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told parliament recently that a balance will have to be struck between the demands of industry and those of rural India.

"We shall have to ensure that the farmers are not disturbed, their interests are not jeopardized, because they have to play the most positive role in respect of ensuring food security," Mukherjee said.

Indian authorities admit that there is need for new legislation to protect the interests of farmers. But two bills which have been drafted are pending before parliament. These proposed laws are meant to ensure that farmers get compensation for their land at the market price. They also address issues of rehabilitation, jobs and training for those affected.

Development analysts say that the government has little time to lose in addressing these complex issues to ensure that the transition from a country of small farmers to a modern economy is a smooth one.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs