Urbanization, Industrialization Versus Farmers in India: an unnecessary battle

Posted on August 14, 2008. Filed under: economics, India, Politics |

Noida farmers are up in arms against developers and apparent breach of promises of  “fair” market price for their land. This is part of a general conflict in the whole of India characterized by increasingly militant resistance against government take-over of land for urbanization or industrialization as well as private or corporate purchase of land.

The history of land grabbing by the government of India for “developmental purposes” are well recorded in the annals of the  British Raj.  I have known people who remembered stories from their ancestors about how families in their neighbourhood had lost almost everything when the first rail lines began to be laid  by the British  empire in India. I have searched for and seen documents that tend to show that although on the whole the British government of India paid very nearly the prevailing market rate for acquisition of land, this money actually found its way into the pockets of the various “new zemindars” (new landlords – replacements of the old landed gentry by the British from among the financier trader class who eagerly collaborated with the British in the overthrow of the local aristocracy) and “Mutsuddis” or “banyans” (agents or the favourite term of the Marxists – compradors) and not to the real tillers and agrarian labourers who were the real producers from whom the remaining economic parasites of “Zemindars” and “banyas” siphoned off their wealth in the pure process of circulation and “middle-man”-ship.

The recent events show that not much has changed in India from the time of the Raj. This is also expected as the social classes and elites who came to power as a result of Independence were simply the new face of the older Indian elite, with age-old class and network interests – and they were not against the British  system as perfected in India but simply wanted to take it over for their own interests (I have this uncanny feeling that had the British been able to overcome their Achilles heel – racism, and incorporate Indian elite at the highest echelons of power, they might never have had to go).

In UK, acquisition of land for industrialization and “development” was accompanied with large scale disruption of the agrarian poor’s life. Wholesale eviction of tenant farmers took place, who swelled the ranks of the urban poor and provided the early cheap labour that utilized the capital extracted from the colonies and the slave trade to jump-start the British industrial revolution. The child labour or bonded labour so much talked about now in the context of India was quite the order of the great British capitalist revolution now almost completely suppressed and vehemently denied by modern British historians while at the same time blaming India for a similar “crime”.  Such labour also came from these displaced farmer families, whose women are known to have been forced to “work the streets” of London and the major industrial towns – (Jack the Ripper had his fun on such women in the East End purgatory of London – then the festering hole of such displaced farmer turned proletariat).

Our industrialists have a peculiar problem. Modern industries are capital intensive and labour substitutive. This implies that new industries set up on lands acquired from farmers  have little chance of  absorbing  them as  workers in the  industries being set up.  Our  sequence of visionary  governments’  (from right after Independence) have succeeded  in  managing to let each social class or profession continue through the generations without imposing upon them the importance and necessity of modernizing through a continuous upgrading and ever-widening net of scientific education or technical skills in keeping with technological progress. Which means in most cases the younger generation in any given farming community is most likely to be geared towards being a farmer only without technological or other relevant education that can allow them to diversify into new and upcoming technology. So the only way to do anything is to compensate financially a farmer for land.  Typically since land is an element of juicy speculation for the financiers of India, land prices would rise at fantastic rates as soon as financiers smell the prospect of development either because of proximity of industrialization or otherwise. Thus land prices could change rapidly within a very short space of time.

There are at least two ways out of this impasse :

(1) a financial market based solution to this problem is possible

(2) build up agro-industrial townships within an integrated self-sustaining community setup where the farmers and their lands are incorporated as an integral part

But both need vision and political will, a rare commodity among our visionary political elite. Their extraordinary genius is all spent on ensuring their electoral success based on exponentially increasing and actively promoted fracture of Indian society

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One Response to “Urbanization, Industrialization Versus Farmers in India: an unnecessary battle”

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You jump around a lot in this article, you need to remain more focused in your writing.


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