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LAND SHARKS EATING OUR CROP Bookmark and Share  
 
  Author Name : Sanjeev Raspaile Posted on : August-22-2009 Total Hits: 2755
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It was my honour that I got an opportunity to live in the rural areas of Punjab for five long years. The state turned out to be exactly as I heard and read about it. Lush green fields surrounded by sky-touching eucalyptus trees, endless streams of water, tractors and trucks galore, healthy cattle, well bodied and good hearted men-women, etc. Earlier I had seen all this in movies only.

So without any doubts, I started enjoying my stay in hale and hearty Punjab. As I always loved and respected rural life, I used to travel across the fields and villages to have more inside glimpse of the lifestyle is rural Punjab. An average water pump in Punjab used to propel out more water than an average river in the planes of India. Overflowing granaries were an assurance that our fellow countrymen need not worry about food. It was indeed the granary of the nation. Round the year production of grains and vegetables ensured that India need not go to anybody with begging bowl in hand.

Inflating chest with proud feeling, I used to pray God to keep this land of five rivers always lush green with crops and people dancing happily amidst the fields. I often used to visit Chandigarh city that was hardly a fifty kilometres ride from my place of residence. Well connected and well laid roads made the ride possible and comfortable throughout the year and at any time of the day or night.

Chandigarh is a symbol of modernity. A well planned city with affluent people and posh lifestyles was like a wonderland to me then, that in reality amused me more than my dreams. I used to travel between the city and the village very often and the journey itself used to mesmerise me no end. Chilled winters, pleasant sunlight, smooth roads and to top it all, lush green fields just touching the road banks were a delight.

But after initial couple of years of my stay, the picture started changing. Initially the change took place unsuspectingly. It all started with the change in the government’s policies. Creation of Special Economic Zones and giving boost to infrastructure, especially construction sector, hit the nail in the coffin of the agriculture. The land sharks backed by money laden multinationals came grabbing for the land. They were ready to rain money over the landowners if they parted with their precious fertile land belts adjoining roads and highways. Farmers sensed windfalls. Just by signing or by putting thumb impression on the dotted line, the farmers raked in mullahs and builders opened the floodgates of fortune for themselves. It was a ‘win-win’ situation for both the parties involved.

Precious agricultural land that produced India’s food was sold for unbelievable prices. Farmers were happy to get rid of it as their generations to come were assured of money without toiling; and builders were happy to have grabbed the prime land from which they were going to make money for their generations to come.

But for India and Indians it was a ‘lose-lose’ situation! At the end of my five year stay in Punjab, I stopped travelling to Chandigarh as the site besides the roads was a painful one. Mega-city, mega-malls, mega-hotels, mega-parks, et al were the new occupants at the roadside. Lush green fields were nowhere to be seen. Life-giving crop of wheat was indeed too small and feeble to put up a fight against concrete giants. I used to look at farmers with my head held high; now I needed to break my neck in order to look at these mega-structures.

The big question is, is it ok to allow acquisition and diversion of such a productive agricultural land for any other purpose? At the time when the agriculture in the rest of India is going through serious crisis of water scarcity and reduced outputs, is it correct to give up fertile Punjabi land for infrastructural developments? If we lose good agricultural land to economic zones or construction industry at this pace, will we have any productive agricultural land left to produce food for us?

The answer is indeed negative and the thought of all this happening is terrible. In coming ten to fifteen years, food grains production would have depleted considerably. Thereby the prices of food grains will skyrocket and will go out of common man’s reach. A square meal will become a luxury for half of India’s population. They will have to skip their meals at least once daily to make both ends meet. In spite of having money to pay for, food grains won’t be available openly for all. It brings shivers down the spine to think of our children having to fight for the food.

Government needs to change its policies regarding agriculture. And the concerned citizens of India must compel the government to do so.

 
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