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Modi’s tested solution: Land bill a step to marry agriculture with industry

The controversy over the land bill is a battle of two perceptions, two differing ideologies and hugely contradictory world views. If India has to emerge from the shackles of two debilitating legacies – colonialism and socialism – this bill is cardinal to its success.

There can be debates on the manner in which it was brought, by the ordinance route, or the initial lack of communication on its salient features, but India cannot afford to rot again in the Rahul-Jairam Ramesh fetish for reducing the country’s development story into a romantic tale of Niyamgiri worshippers and saga of stalled projects between 2004 and 2014. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has to join this battle, for, his mandate is to change India, make India and make it the most desired destination for human kind.

The stories of farm disasters and farmer suicides are eloquently discussed in Congress rallies and cocktail circuits. Farmer suicides and village distress are best documented in books and award winning articles. But they belong to an era when the Congress had unchallenged sway over the political landscape of India. Without going into the details of statistics, one can safely argue that the top ranks in the farm suicides were possessively guarded by the erstwhile Congress citadels such as Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Haryana and Rajasthan.

If the Congress’ love for the Indian farmer was so pronounced in the 2013 Land Acquisition Bill, why did not the Indian farmer vote the party in the 2014 election? Whereas in Gujarat – which Rahul Gandhi is citing as the model that Modi is trying to replicate in the entire country – every single seat was won by Modi, reducing Rahul’s party to a historic zilch. And, Gujarat is not the only agricultural success story.

Comparatively, farm suicides were the least in all BJP ruled states. Be it Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, the other two states, where BJP ruled uninterruptedly for three terms, the agrarian scene tells a different story from that of the non-BJP ruled states. While the agricultural growth stagnated at 2 % consistently at the national level under Rahul Gandhi’s party, the BJP ruled states were on the top of India’s agrarian growth for over a decade at double digit and fed almost the entire nation.

The other success story being Punjab, where BJP is in a coalition with the Akali Dal. Of all these, Gujarat is the most sterling example because it was never known as an agriculture state. The Gujarat agrarian success so enthused India’s former President APJ Abdul Kalam that he asked IIM, Ahmedabad to undertake a case study to develop it as a model for the entire country.

How did Modi achieve a double digit agriculture growth in Gujarat? When he took charge as the Chief Minister, half the state was reeling under constant draught, people with live stock used to migrate to other parts for want of water, fodder and livelihood and the state average agrarian growth was below 2 % in conformity with the Congress record.

Gujarat success became a trigger for other BJP states to emulate. Dr Ravindra Dholakia and his team from IIM Ahmadabad have brilliantly documented the Gujarat Agricultural Trajectory in a book published by Macmillan.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi says Modi has brought the Gujarat model for India. There was a time the BJP adversaries used to frighten people saying Gujarat was Sangh Parivar’s ideological laboratory. That apart, it is untrue to say that farmers were exploited to enrich the corporate. Farmers in Gujarat are the happiest and richest in India.

Gujarat also presents a story of industrial growth. Why did Tata leave Bengal and go to Gujarat with his small car project? Why is the automobile industry leaving Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra and making Sanand in Gujarat the Detroit of India? Because of the infrastructure, labour productivity and investment friendly climate.

Modi has improved investment climate in India. Economy is looking up. The Economist has found for India a rare chance to fly and emerge as “the world’s most dynamic big economy.” The World Bank and rating agencies such as Moody’s have upgraded and projected Modi’s India as the fastest growing economy; a silver lining in a world of falling growth. The possibility of a double digit growth for the first time in India’s history is knocking at our door.

In a socialist paradigm, land is the basic ingredient in the production chain. Capitalist economists like Harood Domar held the view that growth is the function of one input, capital. Man cannot be happy if better living cannot reach villages. Better roads, better hospitals, better irrigation, better information connectivity and better education and marketing is what Modi has provided in Gujarat and this is what he is trying to ensure for the entire country.

These facilities cannot reach rural India without investment, industrialization. A better living condition is what an Indian farmer wants. He cannot be a victim of the vicious cycle of Indian monsoon failure. Left politicians and their ideological orphans in the Congress have waxed eloquent for 60 years about the farm miseries, shedding crocodile tears, without ever trying to find a way out. According to UPA’s own admission, Rs 30 lakh crore stagnated due to environmental clearance because of (former Environment ministers from Congress) Jairam Ramesh and Jayanthi Natarajan. Capital worth $ 25 billion flew out of India in the last days of Manmohan Singh government.

For the first time, Modi has attempted a solution at the national level. And in that he has stirred a hornet’s nest. The vested interest of money lenders, village sharks, manipulative politicians from north Indian states, who don’t have a single economic success story to tell, have rallied behind individuals like Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Jairam Ramesh, who have never seen a real farm life. It is like old battles against tractors, modernization of agriculture, computerization, land reform and abolition of zamindari.

This conspiracy against Indian farmer has to be exposed. No farmer wants his son to be a farmer. He is tied to his land, his destiny dictated by the success or failure of his crop. He should be given a choice to modernize, market and monitise his land. That is what the land Bill is all about.

In Congress scheme, the farmer will always pray for government patronage and protection from natural calamity. The Adivasi will always live in the forest. Is this empowering, freedom from bondage? Is it Rahul’s development model? Economic mobility is the essence of development. New avenues and opportunities need to be innovated for the Indian farmer. The farmer leaders are not opposing the Bill. That is why there was no farmer leader in the Congress rally.

The land bill is a step to marry agriculture with industry. This will encourage economic activity and revive rural economy. The land will become more valuable, demand will rise, incentivize construction and accelerate economic growth. The Land Bill is a step to make the farmer also an entrepreneur and unleash the development potential of the so far discarded avenues of job creation and income distribution. All developed nations in the world have witnessed this process.

In the fascinating book Breaking Through, Li Lanqing, former vice premier of China under Deng Xiaoping describes how farm reforms led to China’s present status in world economy. India has a lot to learn from Chinese experience. Modi has obviously taken a leaf out of the Deng model. Everybody knows the problem. Only Modi has tried a solution.

Any progressive legislation has to face a plethora of resistance from the well entrenched establishment lobby and the controversy surrounding the BJP government’s Land Bill is no different. Like Manmohan Singh in the Nuclear Deal with America, Narendra Modi should not try for a consensus but join the battle with greater firmness and articulation.

Author: R. Balashankar (Author is National convener of BJP’s intellectual cell and former editor of Organiser. )

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