Resource centre on India's rural distress

Farm laws worsen a development model that covets land, ignores cultivator -Vasundhara Jairath

-The Indian Express

For a healthy agrarian sector, the state must strengthen and protect the position of the cultivator. As long as land acquisition continues at its current pace, there is little chance of that happening.

As farmers from Punjab and Haryana force the central government into unconditional talks, demanding nothing less than a repeal of the three new farm laws, the BJP-led NDA government insists the reforms are “farmer-friendly”. The farm laws seek to introduce the neoliberal notion of “choice” into the production and sale of agricultural produce through deregulation, and give a push to private traders and agricultural corporations. Small and marginal farmers — a section that constitutes 85 per cent of agrarian landholdings — are likely to be worst hit, with the lowest bargaining power and highest level of precarity.

Added to this, state policies on land, intertwined in important ways with the current development model, are a significant force shaping agrarian conditions in India. The scale of land acquisition has increased exponentially since the Nineties, with the estimate for all displaced people up from approximately 25-30 million by 1990 to 60 million by 2004 (Walter Fernandes). The current development model is hungry for land but has little use for the people that live on it, with little progress being made on employment generation in comparison to the numbers of livelihoods destroyed by displacement. A closer look at the way in which these policies influence the livelihood of small and marginal farmers is imperative in a relevant analysis of agriculture in India.

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