The turbulence and violence that forced the Tata Motors to make a hasty retreat from West Bengal and set up its Nano car project in Gujarat is still fresh in the memory of those familiar with the conflict that is becoming more and more frequent between the farmers and the industry. A new dimension has been added to this issue by the agriculture minister of the country who made an assertion recently that good farming land should not be acquired for industry since that would affect the food production in a serious way. His contention that majority of land holdings have no assured water supply, however, provides some justification that such lands being low in productivity can be used for industrial development. An agriculture minister of a country should strive to make the land more productive by providing irrigation and other inputs for increasing over all production instead of lamenting helplessly in public!
Addressing the media on the sidelines of a workshop on 'Bringing the Green Revolution to the Eastern Region,' Pawar pointed out that as much as 82% of the farmers own less than an acre and 60% of such land have no assured water supply. "Therefore, the land which gives a good crop and the land which has good water supply will have to be preserved. Therefore, we are not encouraging acquisition of such land," Pawar said, adding however, he is not against setting up of industries. Pointing out that land identified for agriculture is shrinking, he said a committee under his ministry had recommended four years ago that the states should not acquire land where "one or two crops is possible and irrigation is also possible."
While productive land is an asset for any farmer, what is posing a dilemma is the small size of land holdings where most farmers are able to just survive, the viability of the operation always uncertain. Why these farmers are resisting land acquisition, in spite of being a marginal segment of the population is an issue not exercising the minds of the policy makers. If adequate compensation and assured livelihood through employment assurance are forthcoming, there is no reason why these farmer-owners would not surrender their land. National agriculture policy of any counry must lay down norms for crop selection, extent of areas with high production potential, fallow land and its utilization, use of land for non-agricultural activity, etc in stead of dealing with these issues piece meal.