Rights to Development

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What the current system of land acquisition wants to do is take this productive land and pour concrete on it. A simple question is: If the most fertile land in the country produces cars and chemicals, what do we eat.

[Source: DNA India] Harini Calamur writing for DNA India rightly identifies the misplaced priorities in land acquisition for development. However, her conclusion is a little misplaced. The question is not whether we should pour concrete on fertile land but rather who gets to decide that we do. She points to the ‘throwaway prices’ that the government acquires these lands and hands them over to large companies, which may be at the core of most of these protests around India rather than the location of these industries.

I believe if the government stepped out of the equation and let these large companies deal directly with the farmers, the animosity toward such development would be far less. Critics may point toward price gouging in terms of land pricing but companies can always point to or head to better deals elsewhere in the state or the nation as a way of negotiation. The government can always step in to provide supporting infrastructure after such deals have been finalized.

In a large country like India, not all fertile land seeks to be paved over and in fact, innovations in agricultural technology may do more in increasingly yields from less land rather than preserving the amount of fertile land (cue anti-Malthus arguments). The amount of land is and has remained finite but the ways to make it more productive (and fertile) have always improved.

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