Land, development and democracy

India cannot continue with a pattern of industry that yields so few jobs but has such a large ecological footprint. Neither can it be excited by the urban nightmares that its cities are today. The land law debate must be the occasion to talk about these key national agendas


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It is in this backdrop that we need to understand the heightened sensitivities and palpable anger over forcible land acquisition. Given that 90 per cent of our coal, more than 50 per cent of most minerals, and prospective dam sites are mainly in Adivasi regions, there has been, and is likely to be, continuing tension over issues of land acquisition. Through these tensions, not only has a question mark been placed over our development strategy, the delicate fabric of Indian democracy has become terribly frayed at the edges. In the remote Adivasi heartlands of India, people feel such a deep and abiding sense of hurt, alienation and cynicism that they have allowed themselves to be helplessly drawn into a terrible vortex of violence and counter-violence, even when they know in their heart of hearts that it will lead to their own destruction.

The 2013 land law tried to reach out to these people, by undoing a draconian colonial Act more suited to a 19th century empire than to a 21st century vibrant democracy. At the heart of the 2013 law was the…continue reading