According to the NBA, rallies and public meetings at both the places -- Dhadgaon in district Nandurbar in Maharashtra, and Badwani in district Badwani in Madhya Pradesh on Oct 22 and 23, respectively -- amidst adivasis of Nandurbar, Alirajpur and farmers from the plains of Nimad would be reinforced with presence of some of the well-wishers from outside. Some months back, after I returned from the Narmada valley, I had written an analysis: Over 200,000 Narmada Dam oustees still to be rehabilitated; a crime that goes unpunished for 25 years.
In that article I had not touched on the issue of construction of the proposed canal systems leading to destruction of irrigated lands. I don't know how the planners can justify the need for canals in an area which is already irrigated by pipes and water bodies being saturated by water from the Narmada river. The dichotomy is brought out clearly in a letter to the Minister for Environment & Forests by a group of respected citizens. You must read the letter to know how development is flawed, and how it aims at only helping usurping land from the control of poor tribal.
"The land being acquired for the canals are the best of fertile agricultural lands on the banks of the Narmada and nearby; which are already receiving pipeline irrigation supply from the river itself and hence do not require canals to feed them. it is absolutely irrational to bring in river water through a canal by destroying the best of land -- and livelihoods -- when the same water is already irrigating village land. The already irrigated land for more than 50 per cent of the proposed command area to be irrigated," the letter says. It has been signed among others by L C Jain, Upendra Baxi, and Kuldeep Nayyar.
The battle for land is not only confined to the Narmada valley. In the past few years, the government is trying to acquire agricultural land across the country under one pretext of the other. In one of my blog posts, I had written: Pitched battles are being fought across the country by the poor and deprived, who fear further marginalisation when their land is literally grabbed by the government on behalf of the industry. Over the years agriculture has been deliberately turned into a losing proposition as a result of which farmers, in most places, are keen to move out provided they get a better price for their land. [You can read the article at http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.com/2010/08/rural-india-on-boil-land-literally.html]
In Madhya Pradesh alone, in central India, as per the data released by the Home Department and tabled in the State Assembly, the number of rural protests had soared from 67 in 2005 to 252 in 2009. To dispel the public protests, police acted acted 35 times, using tear gas 17 times and firing bullets on 8 occasions. As per the official statistics, most of the rural protests were by farmers against land acquisitions.
As rural India rises in protest against land acquisitions, a section of the English media has been telling us that the nation has to draw a lesson from China where land acquisitions have transformed the country and is projecting it on the path to high economic growth. Somehow the impression being given is that it is as if the rural people in China are voluntarily giving up their land for the sake of country's economic growth. Nothing can be further from truth. Rural China too knows that the forcible land
acquisitions is aimed at snatching away from them their last hope of economic security.