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VIRENDRA KAPOOR
NO HOLDS BARRED

Congress has a terribly anti-farmer record

Farmers are pawns in opportunistic politics over changes in land law.

RAHUL SOUNDS HYPOCRITICAL

Nau sou choohe khaake billi Haj ko chal. Farmers know full well the meaning of this saying. It is the politicians, treating the farmers as mere pawns in their own desperation to regain relevance, who need to be mindful of the stark message contained in that pithy Hindi proverb. Rahul Gandhi, the sabbatical returnee, may or may not be familiar with it. But after his enlightenment, we do hope he is clever enough to sift the fact from the fiction and the truth from the untruth. Before he delivered himself of his set-piece harangue against the proposed changes in the land acquisition law in the Lok Sabha, the Gandhi scion ought to have considered the record of his own party since Independence.

Given that his attention span is short, not unlike his late father's, we can present here a few bullet points in the hope that he would understand, and not sound as hypocritical as he did the other day while opposing the proposed changes in the land acquisition law. Farmers cannot be impressed by crocodile tears. After the humongous loot of their lands by successive Congress governments, the Gandhis should have mercy and not rub salt on their wounds.

• The progressive, socialist Congress government of Jawaharlal Nehru not only persisted with the 1894 British-made, wholly one-sided land acquisition law, but, worse, amended it only to tilt it further against landowners. Besides, Nehru barred courts in the name of nation-building from reviewing land acquisition.

• Indira Gandhi went a step further in disempowering landowners. Wilful acquisition of their lands was sanctified in law by barring any challenge on grounds of fair compensation, with the word "compensation" replaced by "amount". (Remember her darling son Sanjay's Maruti project had come up on acquired land for which farmers had literally received pennies.) In other words, if you acquired hundred acres of fertile land and paid, say, ten thousand rupees, the poor owner could not seek redress in a court of law.

• In Rahul Gandhi's own first term as an MP, the UPA government devised a stratagem to transfer tens of thousands of hectares of fertile agricultural land to crony capitalists who had kept the Congress' coffers ringing with tonnes of black money and kept its leaders in thrall. The so-called special economic zones scheme was a fraud on the country. Industrial houses and real estate developers managed to grab vast tracts of farmland at throwaway prices in the name of SEZs.

• Among the biggest beneficiaries of the scam called SEZ scheme was a corporate biggie who was heard claiming on the Radiaa tapes that Congress to apni ghar ki dukaan hai (meaning paise do or jo bhi maal chahiey kharido). He was allotted thousands of acres of acquired lands by Haryana's Congress government in the Gurgaon-Manesar belt. And he had hundreds of acres of acquired lands in Navi Mumbai as well for the proposed SEZ.

• Should Rahul Gandhi insist, we can tell him that another beneficiary of the SEZ racket was a real estate group which bestowed huge unearned profits on Robert Vadra simply because the latter had the magic power to make the Congress governments work at supersonic speeds in favour of his clients, in this case, the real estate company in question. It was sanctioned a huge SEZ in Haryana. Hundreds of hectares of land were acquired by the state government for transfer to it. The farmers, however, got pittance for their lands. Had they received a fraction of what Vadra was paid per acre for his ill-gotten 7.5 acres in Gurgaon, which he sold to the said realtor, we would have applauded the Congress government for its fairness.

• So touching was the concern of the Congress for farmers that its state governments rushed to acquire hundreds of acres of land post haste under the 1894 law in order to beat the deadline for the new land acquisition law to come into force, that is, on 1 January 2014. The Maharashtra government alone was saddled with over 2,000 acres of land for which it had no concrete plan when it was voted out of power.

We can list here many more such points to buttress the fact that the record of the Congress government was certainly not farmer-friendly. However, given his short attention span, this should suffice for now.

Meanwhile, the Gandhi scion ought to appreciate that all those subsisting on agriculture are not actually landowners. Landless labourers tilling the land, seasonal farm hands etc., number far more than the real farm owners. Only 10% of the 54% Indians engaged in agriculture would like to continue farming. The remaining want to migrate to towns and find work in the service sector. And that would require the expansion of the manufacturing sector, nay, the corporate sector, for millions of new jobs. Without land neither the infrastructure nor the corporate sector can expand.

By the way, when Rahul Gandhi talks of further raising the minimum support price for wheat and rice he fails to understand that the same landless labourers and farmhands who needs must necessarily buy their wheat and rice from the market would have to pay more because the MSP determines the general price-line for food items.

Of course, we can sympathise with him. A mere two-month sabbatical cannot make him appreciate fully basic facts about the land and food economies. But he gets full marks for valiantly trying, especially after sitting through idly for over ten years as an MP. But how do we explain the muted hope in the Congress ranks after his post-sabbatical performance? Simple. Since they expected zilch, he seems to be getting pass marks from most Congressmen. It is like going to an Emraan Hashmi movie and coming back rationalising it was okay. Had the same movie starred Aamir Khan, they would have come out of the theatre muttering curses. Low expectations can even pass proven failures.

A CRUEL JOKE

This one is particularly cruel but it has become all the rage on the internet and the SMS circuits. Following the Congress tamasha at the Ramlila Maidan against the changes in the land acquisition law, where speakers also sought higher compensation for farmers due to crop damage caused by unseasonal rains, someone with a wicked sense of humour sent the net abuzz with this one. "At the Congress rally, they collected Rs 100 each from everyone in the audience and presented the thaili to Sonia Gandhi with the words, 'Aap ki bhi to fasal kharab hui hain (your crop too has failed)'."

 
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