Failure at the tri-junction of land, income and identity

News: The centrality of land to people’s lives is key to understanding the reasons behind the year-long, rigid opposition to the three farm laws by the farmers.

The ongoing land acquisition issue between the Archaeological Society of India (ASI) and over 10 agricultural families in Dholaivra is a case point that explains the significance of land attached to people’s lives.

This story seen in the context of farm laws will help us to understand why Farmers were agitating rigidly against the farm laws.

What is the issue between the Archaeological Society of India (ASI) and the agricultural families in Dholaivra?

During the early 1990s, the ASI, acquired land from over 10 agricultural families around the excavation site to expand its discovery coverage.

However, none of the families accepted the compensation because they felt it was too little. They wanted either jobs or equivalent parcels of land anywhere else.

The ASI couldn’t comply, forcing land-owners to seek legal redressal. The case has been dragging for more than 25 years. This issue illustrates, the significance of the land.

How significant is land to people’s livelihood?

Land is a source for livelihood: Land is one of the two primary factors of production, capital, and labour. The land is capital, and when coupled with labour, it yields a regular income.

Land serves important social functions: For many agricultural families, despite their marginal holdings, land serves as the basis for social, cultural, linguistic, and filial ties.

How the significance associated with land is connected to farm laws?

First, the farmers were afraid that the farm laws were designed for the benefit of large conglomerates that could use their influence to control farmers and the farm trade.

Second, the farm income has been declining owing to a decline in operational agricultural land-holding. For example, The National Statistical Office’s 2019 survey on farm incomes, showed that farmers with less than 2 acres of land (90% of all farmers) had suffered poor income growth from cultivation over the past decade.

In this context, the farm laws gave rise to fears that even this income would be further compressed under corporate pressure, forcing many farmers to eventually lose their capital.

Source: This post is based on the article “Failure at the tri-junction of land, income and identity” published in Live mint on 22nd November 2021.

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