Cost of Elite-Centric Development, When India Lives in Villages

The imagination of rural economy would be a totally false idea without land and agriculture.

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Opinion
5 min read
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‘We live and die in the land’ – this was the world view of a villager of Telangana’s Imambad, who told us about it, when we visited the region a few months ago during an institutional research project.

The collapse of agrarian structure has brought a serious transformation in the livelihood patterns in the region. Imambad and its localities present the tragedy of the region, which is actually on the path of death in terms of its agrarian structure. Here, it is notable, under the land acquisition process, for the construction of Ranga Nayak Reservoir; including Imambad, people of the several villages have lost their agricultural land in the region such as Ravancha, Chandlapur, Peddakudur, Chinnakudur, Lingareddipalli and many more.

In fact, the imagination of rural economy would be a totally false idea without land and agriculture; land plays a pivotal role in the processes of agrarian system as it is a well-known fact, since all their socio-economic activities predominantly lies on land merely.

The Story of Imambad

As we entered into the village Imamabad in the district of Siddipet of Telangana, we made conversations with the villagers, we felt a grave anxiety among them due to the ongoing reservoir project. The ruction and the silence of destruction of the rural economy made us distraught.

We sat on the door of a house where two women were engaged in bidi-making. They welcomed us and offered water. During conversation we asked about their bidi profession and they replied that previously they had their own farmland that was sufficient to produce food materials to survive, but now nothing despite the small amount of compensation that has been offered by the state government in place of evicting them from their farm lands. That is why they were compelled to start bidi-making for the survival.

Another villager Nagesh standing near there said that earlier he was a prosperous farmer and used to earn Rs 600 daily by selling his agricultural products, but now he is totally jobless and doing nothing just depending on the same compensatory amount. People claimed, and we observed, that most of the villagers have lost their traditional livelihood sources and are depending on new and weaker livelihood sources, or have been left completely unemployed with not much hope for the future.

Economic Transformation

A tremendous rural economic transformation can easily be noticed in these areas.

Tirupati Yadav, few months ago was a farmer and had some cattle and land, but now he has to run a small kirana shop for his survival and his wife has to work as a bidi worker in the village.

Narayan Goud has also lost all his land and now has no work to do. He is just dependent on compensatory amount. Many farmers have migrated and started working as daily wage labourer at construction sites in the cities, few decided to work in bricks industries with their wives or other family members and so on.

Interestingly, the impact of this reservoir project is not limited to merely the rural traditional economy, but crossed the boundaries of the government’s own ambitious social welfare projects also.

For example, last year the village was brought under Municipal Council removing it from Panchayat Raj that resulted into the loss of jobs and social and economic protection of marginalised communities under MGNREGA and other schemes. None of the villagers know the rationale behind the change, and they seemed to be extremely worried about this.

MGNREGA and other village-based schemes depend on land, but due to the project there has been a severe scarcity of farm-land, therefore people claim of that government changed the status of the village for the sake of the project only.

‘Our Leaders Have Asked Us to Sacrifice’

Many mudiraj families were involved in fishing activities from the tanks and ditches, but this project swallowed all that water sources. They were promised by the government officials that they will be given tender of fishing once reservoir is completed, but at the final stage of the project no officials are seen or available to follow through with the pending commitments.

Similarly, pastoral communities like Yadavs have stopped cattle rearing due to the destruction of the grazing land and water sources.

In the provisions and process of compensation people told that only those were benefitted who had larger land plots already, since they could get sufficient money and used it properly as in purchasing land-plots in the cities for commercial or agricultural purposes and so on; but such types of people are handful.

A larger population are having small farmland, and unfortunately on the one hand, they lost their agricultural land, and on the other got a very small amount of compensation that was fruitless to them.

For example, Illiah had less than one ekad land and he received a small amount that was distributed between brothers so he could not get a reasonable source of amount to make it productive. Government had fixed the amount of 13 lacks/ekad, but most of the villagers have received less than 5 lacks since they had small land holdings. Although, few got 13lacks but they could not make it productive due to basically two reasons, first they were unskilled and illiterate and poor in handling the amount in such a proper manner, and second the amount is not as much as they could purchase agricultural land somewhere since the rate of land in the region starts from 30 to 40 lacks per ekad because of the entry of governmental and non-governmental “developmental” projects in the region.

People claimed that when they were evicting the land to the project were promised by the officials and politicians of offering jobs and employment apart from compensatory amount, but more than three years passed, promises still remain a dream. One villager asked with sadden voice ‘who can fight with the government! They can promise and can breach….they have the power’.

A village is not merely an economic group; this is a live organic structure of land, forests, animals, people etc. based on interdependence and cohesiveness. Considering the role of land how much is it practical and justifiable offering them merely few amounts in place of their farmland?

One villager asked “our leaders have asked us to sacrifice for the thousands of people and we are doing so.”

The condition of the villages compels us to contemplate that destruction of the communities is indispensable in the name of developmental activities? Our policies are urban and elite centric, while a larger India lives in the remote villages. Is there no way of attaining development without the agrarian structure village communities suffering losses? The tragedy of development is – to quench the thirst we make people thirsty first.

(Keyoor Pathak is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Council for Social Development, Telangana. He can be reached at keyoorpathak4@gmail.com.

Chittaranjan Subudhi is an Assistant Professor at Central University of Tamil Nadu, Thiruvarur. He can be reached at chittaranjan.subudhi@gmail.com.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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