An Allahabad high court judgement restoring land to farmers in the Noida area has opened a can of worms. Within days of the pronouncement, these sons of the soil have expanded their list of demands to a near-impossible level.
Farmers from Harola, Nithari, Mamura, Sultanpur, Naya Bans and Bhangel areas along with the local member of Parliament, Surendra Singh Nagar, have a new wish list. Apart from the land—which was used for developing projects— they want special reservation for their children in schools and institutions of higher education in Noida. Not only that, they want to reopen all land acquisition cases way back to 1976, a time when the area was nothing more than a grassy knoll.
Clearly, these demands are not reasonable and are in the nature of political blackmail. There are ample indications that once they’ve repossessed land, farmers will be more than willing to sell it to developers, for a much bigger price tag. This has nothing to do with “justice”, but is a plain lunge for a bigger pound of flesh.
What is fuelling this frenzy? For one, the unintended consequences of judicial intervention are at work here. Courts have traditionally sided with those who’ve been dispossessed of their land in an unreasonable way—and rightly so. In Noida much of this process was opaque and farmers’ consent was not taken in a manner that any court could hold as fair. This, however, has been misunderstood by these politically self-seeking farmers as “the backing of the courts” to indulge in trouble.
Another factor at work is the politically charged atmosphere in Uttar Pradesh— which faces state-level elections next year. This has turned Noida and other parts of the state into a bitter battleground between the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress. Farmers know that at this point of time even outrageous demands and ideas have political currency. The Congress’ support to them—especially after Rahul Gandhi’s repeated visits to the area—has emboldened them.
This combination is fuelling a near-anarchic situation in that area. There are important lessons here. Governments should steer clear of land acquisition except in vital projects of national importance—and building residential units does not fall in this class. More importantly, “intellectuals” in New Delhi need to understand that rights shorn of responsibility will only lead to anarchy in India.
Are farmers of Noida being unreasonable? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org