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For Land and Water



For Land and Water
The government first grabs the land of farmers and then it shoots to kill those who protest.

          n 9 August, three farmers in Maharashtra’s Maval taluka                  by activists, should this diversion take place, nearly 23,219 hec-
          in Pune district were shot dead by policemen. They were                  tares of land will be deprived of irrigation. The recently passed
          part of a larger crowd protesting against a water pipeline               Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (Amend-
project. Television coverage of the protest showed some police-                    ment and Continuance) Act, 2011 has failed to address the appre-
men chasing and firing at the fleeing, unarmed farmers, while                      hensions that industry is being prioritised over agriculture as far
others flung stones at the retreating protestors. The opposition                   as water distribution is concerned.
to the closed pipeline project in Maval taluka is one amongst                         The state government’s handling of the Maval farmers’ agita-
several similar protests in Maharashtra that have resulted in                      tion and the police firing that followed was exceptionally inept.
police firings and legal battles. They include the Lavasa planned                  The undercurrents of hostility between the partners of the
city near Pune, the Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Ratnagari dis-                 Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ruling coalition in the
trict, the 1,320 megawatt (MW) Sophia power project in Amravati                    state had erupted in the past one year. But after the killing of the
and the 1,350 MW coal-based thermal power plant at Sinnar, near                    three farmers, the rift within the NCP has come out in the open
Nashik. All these are being opposed by local residents and the                     with Home Minister R R Patil and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit
central issues are identical to those emerging in other parts of the               Pawar pointing fingers at each other. Pawar, who is also the wa-
country in recent times: land acquisition, water distribution and                  ter resources minister, was targeted by the opposition Shiv Sena-
environmental concerns.                                                            Bharatiya Janata Party over the police firing. He, in turn, chose to
   The opposition of the Maval farmers to the Pimpri-Chinchwad                     accuse the home ministry of mishandling the farmers’ agitation.
Municipal Corporation’s (PCMC) 36-km pipeline, funded under                        The Pawar family’s hold over Maharashtra politics is an accepted
the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM),                      fact and Pune, from where Union Agriculture Minister and NCP
has been reinforced by the pitiable fate of fellow villagers who                   chief Sharad Pawar (Ajit Pawar is his nephew) hails, is considered its
gave their land for the Pavna dam in 1972. After 40 years, many                    pocket borough. With elections to the rich Pimpri-Chinchwad
of them are still awaiting compensation while others have re-                      Municipal Corporation scheduled for next year, the timing of the
ceived measly amounts and land has yet to be officially handed                     police firing could not have come at a worse time for Ajit Pawar,
over to them. Many people in this area had earlier given away                      who is also the guardian minister of Pune.
land for the Mumbai-Pune expressway and other industrial                              Given the number of public projects on the anvil in the state,
hub projects. They have grown steadily distrustful of the govern-                  the government is bound to face aggressive protests from local
ment’s intentions due to unfulfilled promises. As a result, in Maval,              residents, mostly farmers and the fisher community over issues of
apart from the reluctance to give away part of their land, the                     land acquisition and diversion of water. If there is one lesson the
farmers – who have opposed the pipeline ever since the founda-                     state government needs to learn from the tragedy in Maval, it is
tion stone was laid in 2008 – fear that they will no longer get                    that you cannot force people to part with their land. There has to
water from the Pavna dam which irrigates their land.                               be a credible alternative in place to assure them that they will be
   The larger fear about water meant for agriculture being diverted                compensated with land, that their livelihoods will be protected
to industry or urban areas is also at the root of the protests                     and that there will be adequate rehabilitation. Given the past
against the Sophia power project in Amravati, which requires                       record of most governments, people have a reason to be distrustful
87 million cubic metres (mcm) from the Upper Wardha dam.                           and are now not willing to voluntarily surrender land for projects
According to information gathered under the Right to Information                   that provide no tangible benefits to them.

   From 50 Years Ago                                    years have passed since the mightiest imperial       painfully underlined the tragic futility of
                                                        power in the world withdrew from India and           such protests…
                                                        yet a tiny despotism like that of Portugal is
                                                        still clinging defiantly to little pockets in this   Time for Action
   Vol Xiii, No 33, august 19, 1961                     country and brazenly calling them integral           …Equally encouraging is the realisation in
                                                        parts of Portugal. This provides a strange           high quarters that the solution of the problem
   weekly notes                                         commentary indeed on Indian forbearance              cannot be left to the terrorised people of Goa
                                                        and Indian reluctance to use force to deal           or to bands of volunteers proceeding from
   Portuguese Possessions                               with a problem which could be settled in no          India to the enclave to encounter torture or
   While the merger of Dadra and Nagar-Haveli           time on that basis…                                  death and that indeed the only way to end
   with the Indian Union is a matter for satis-            Events in Angola in West Africa have shown        Portuguese obduracy is for Government to
   faction, the fact that the bigger Portuguese         how ruthless the Portuguese oppressors can           take action on its own…
   possessions in India like Goa, Diu and               be in dealing with any attempt at rebellion,            This certainly represents an improvement
   Daman are still suffering under alien tyran-         and the methods employed by them in crush-           on the old thinking, but the issue still hinges
   ny, more severe than ever is a source of             ing individual or group demonstrations of            on when time could be considered ripe for
   continuing concern to the nation. Fourteen           resistance over the years in Goa itself have         taking the necessary action…

Economic & Political Weekly   EPW   august 20, 2011   vol xlvI no 34                                                                                           9

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