Nitin Pai (“A new compact with J&K,” Mint, 25 August) does not want to let go of Kashmir. He wants to charm Kashmiris with the Indian Constitution providing for individual freedom, equal opportunity, etc. But the Kashmiris have had enough of that as India has had enough of them for the last 60 years. Kashmir was never a part of India, much less an integral one. The accession signed under duress was a sham. Hold a plebiscite in Ladakh, Jammu and the Kashmir valley, and do what follows. India may have to spend as much as it is doing now, as Pai fears, but then we will be doing that for our people and for our rights.
— M. Bhowmik
The question you asked at the end of your editorial on development and discontent (Mint, 26 August) — whether politics is retarding development in India — is discomforting.
In the Singur case, land is the most valued thing that the people are struggling for.
And the Trinamool Congress, as a political party, is merely articulating and aggregating the interests of the peasants.
By espousing the cause of the peasants, the party may get a good number of seats in the forthcoming elections and may eventually wrest power in West Bengal from the Left parties. So what is wrong with the policies of the Trinamool Congress? Being the leading opposition party, it has the moral obligation to struggle for the rights of the people.
Now the problem revolves around the rights of the people to hold land and the right of the state to acquire land on the basis of the principles of eminent domain (which says the state has overriding authority over its territory) and public good (the state can take harsh actions in the interest of larger good even if it amounts to hardship for a few).
The rights of the people are further jeopardized by the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which vests absolute powers in the hands of district collectors (representing the state) so far as land acquisition and disbursement of compensation are concerned. Compensation is invariably based on the discretionary powers of the district collector who is not obliged to look at the going rate in settling the issue.
The Land Acquisition Act does not provide for any rehabilitation or guarantee regarding restoration of lost source of livelihood. As a result, the victims cannot approach a court of law in case he is not satisfied with the resettlement package and compensation provided by the state.
Moreover, landless peasants are outside the ambit of any rehabilitation package as they do not have any title of a landholding. Although the government of India has announced a national rehabilitation policy for the victims of development-induced displacement or involuntary displacement, it fails to guarantee any entitlement of reconstruction of the source of livelihood as non-implementation of the national rehabilitation policy be challenged in the court of law.
Hence, there is an urgent need to amend the land acquisition law so as to make restoration of livelihood an entitlement. Then, probably the political action such as the one spearheaded by the Trinamool Congress would become irrelevant.
So taking a view that politics is retarding development is absolutely out of sync in the context of the impasse at Singur.
— Srirang Jha