Singur resonates in Delhi: contradictions in peasant political economy

October 12, 2008

The now familiar debate of development versus displacement has cropped up again. Farmers whose land has been acquired by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) are up in arms.

More than 1,450 acres of their land was acquired by the Delhi government in August 2005 and farmers say they were neither consulted before the acquisition, nor given compensation as per the market rates.

The farmers – from six villages in Kanjhawala in North West Delhi – say the land is like their mother and no one sells their mother. They say that they are being displaced while others are being given a home and a living at the expense of their living.

The farmers also claim that no decision has been taken on compensation for them for the last seven months now.

The farmers have been on dharna outside the Distict Commissioner’s Office for a month now, protesting acquisition of their land for infrastructure projects. They claim that they were not consulted before the notification was issued and the land rates offered to them were starkly lower than the market rate.

They were offered Rs 25 lakh per acre in 2005, which after protests was raised to Rs 57 lakh per acre. But activists from Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) say they want more.

BKU Convenor, Joginder Dabas says, “We want the market rate, 25 per cent for bhagidari, some for employment and also royalty of at least Rs 50,000 for 33 years.”

A farmer, Bhim Singh adds, “We will conduct the business of land and whoever wants to talk should talk to us.”

This is a view that has found place in the BJPs election manifesto.

BJP leader VK Malhotra says, “We feel that farmers should themselves deal with corporates to avoid another Singur-like situation.”

While the farmers’ struggle has largely been peaceful till now, the emotive issue is threatening to get out of hand.

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An important contradiction of peasant political economy seems to have been thrown up by this report:

(1) On the one hand the farmers say that land is like their mother and they would, therefore, never sell land;

(2) On the other, BKU – the farmers’ organization presumably spearheading the struggle – seems to be raising two issues: (a) that they were not consulted before the process of acquisition started, and (b) that the price being offreed is lower than the market price.

BKU’s efforts seem to be primarily directed towards getting a fair market *price* for the land and not resisting sale of the land. – Dipankar Basu, Sanhati