An Appeal by Radical Socialist to all Readers of our Website
Comrades and friends,
Radical Socialist members and supporters have been active in the struggles in Rajarhat. We publish below an online petition, and urge all of you to endorse it. We also urge you to support and collaborate with the campaign in whatever way you think possible. This is an effort to make it an independent struggle, as it had been, before it became an electoral football.
Rajarhat, on the outskirts of Kolkata has earned global fame as West Bengal’s new IT hub and a hotspot for real estate investment with companies like DLF, Unitech and others acquiring land and setting up major projects. The first phase of DLF’s Rs 280 crore (Rs 2.80 billion) IT project has been operational since 2005 and a second IT park is on the cards. Wipro, Infosys, IBM – all the major IT houses are in operation here, on subsidized lands. A wireless hub is in the cards. In contrast to Singur-Nandigram, official state government versions portray the Rajarhat land acquisition from the mid 1993 onwards as totally peaceful.
Rajarhat is one of the most fertile areas of West Bengal and perhaps India. Leaving aside some region used for habitation, most, if not all, of the land had been producing 3-4 crops a year. Irrigated by the adjacent canals, this area got more than adequate water. Not having to bother overtly about fertilizing their land it could produce crops with relative ease. Besides varieties of rice, different seasonal crops along with many types of vegetables, fruits and flowers too were grown here. The production satisfied demands of the local population and also provided 20 to 25% of the demands of Kolkata and its suburbs. The area also supplied fish from the local bherries (fishing embankments) and the many canals that used to overflow their banks during the rainy season. Another valuable contribution was meeting Kolkata’s demand for milk.
To set up the Rajarhat Township the government used the British colonial Land Acquisition Act (1894) to acquire 21 Mouzzas of land to start with. The Land and Land Revenues Ministry in 1995 issued a notice and by the order of the Governor, the West Bengal Government acquired all the land and water bodies of those 21. Later on a few more were acquired. The process was started in 1996 under the 12/2 section of 1 of the Act. The total number of affected families added up to nearly 1, 31,000 people.
According to the documents of the land revenue department the number of recorded landowners was over 30,000 while 5,000 were recorded Bargadars(share-croppers). In reality, the number of unrecorded Bargadars was double of that. Long before the government notification and land acquisition process started, the land mafia started buying up the land from the poor farmers.
The land acquisition process officially started in Rajarhat in the months of April-May of 1996. In the beginning of this process all the farmers of Mahishgot and Thakdari declined to accept the notice. Primarily, because the price decided upon for each Katha, i.e. Rs 6000 was too low as compared to the officially government registered price. More importantly for the major section of people here, farming was their assured source of income for the upkeep of their family and they knew no other way of earning their livelihood. Farmers unwilling to accept the notice was subjected to tremendous intimidation and brutality. CPI (M) goons were going around Rajarhat forcing people to accept the notice at gunpoint and this resulted in the farmers unifying to form Rajarhat Jami Bachao Committee (Save Rajarhat Land Committee) to resist. This organisation was not under the control of any political party
All over Rajarhat the land use laws as well as the municipal laws are being flouted with impunity as ponds, other water bodies and marshland are being rapidly filled up and multi-storeyed buildings are being erected at a breakneck pace. Millions of rupees are being siphoned off by cocking a snook at the municipal laws by pocketing the various subsidies provided for house building and by illegally extracting money from the public in the name of building roads. Valuable trees planted by the Panchayat are being cut off and the lives of common people are being ruined in many other such destructive ways.
It must be pointed out that worried about the dangers of having the natural drainage system of Kolkata and its adjoining areas irrevocably damaged and the ecological balance being destroyed by the steady acquisition of all the arable land and water bodies of Rajarhat, a case was filed with the green bench of Kolkata high court. As a matter of fact, Dhupirbil and Ghuni-Jatragachi area consisted of 2095 hectares of natural sewerage which has been filled up. 53 species of fish (many of them are endangered) were found here according to Department of Fisheries, Government of West Bengal.
The sad irony of it all is the fact that while the farmers were paid only Rs. 6000, the same land was being sold by the government to the businessmen at around Rs. 600 000 a katha, while the promoter and developers in turn were making a profit of around Rs. 1,50,00,000 to Rs. 2,00,00,000. This means that the farmers are getting 1% of the profit that the government is making in selling the land to the big business or equivalently the farmers are earning 0.0001 % of what the real estate business are earning from the land. It is worth mentioning that in all of Rajarhat municipality the land price is determined as Rs 1500/square foot for multi-storeyed apartments.
Yet after all this the land sharks are now eyeing the remaining farm lands in Rajarhat. A new scheme has been undertaken envisaging another township to build over 23 Mouzzas of land from Rajarhat and Bhangar.
This scheme has been named BRADA for Bhangar Rajarhat Area Development Authority. In this plan 15 Mouzzas of Rajarhat and 8 Mouzzas of Bhangar are to be included. The total area of land acquired under this scheme would be around 4.5 Hectares. The BRADA scheme to be set up to the east of New Town of Rajarhat. This project would include – Modern roads, sewerage, car park, plazas, electric power station, sports grounds, waste disposal system, system to maintain the ecosystem balance, medical and engineering colleges, information Technology Park and housing. Industrial training centre, sports complex, water sports, agro-marketing zone, model school etc.
It is being touted that BRADA is being set up to stop predatory private business interests from taking over areas adjacent to the New Town and to enable development in a manner that is beneficial to the lower middle class and the common man. Apparently all this will be carried out without spending government funds but with the help of private agencies instead.
However, it seems the BRADA scheme too would be beneficial to the interests of the affluent, a special dispension where the low income groups and the common man has no place. Since this scheme is to be set up with private capital to the tune of thousands of crores, quite obviously this will ensure the enrichment of ministers, officials and the political leaders associated with this project. One should bear in mind that associated with this scheme is the same group of people who so ruthlessly had deprived the farmers of Rajarhat of their land and livelihoods. Rajarhat is sodden with the blood of the poor and it will never dry out.
If we are still silent, the day would not be very far when Rajarhat will be completely erased from the agricultural map of the state while the struggle of the helpless farmers will be lost down the memory hole.
We demand that:
NAPM EXTENDS SOLIDARITY TO ANNA HAZARE AND OTHERS FASTING,
ROOTING OUT CORPORATE CORRUPTION AND DEMANDS NATION WIDE CONSULTATION ON
New Delhi, April 7 : Shri Anna Hazare's indefinite fast and thousands others fasting across the country with a demand for enactment of an independent and stronger Jan Lokpal and Jan Lokayukta enters third day today. NAPM has extended its support to the demand since beginning of the movement and from 5th April
organised rallies, morchas, solidarity fasts, public meetings and other such programmes in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Lucknow, Unao, Itawah, Muzaffarnagar, Delhi and many other places across the country. NAPM reiterate its support, and even as the movement gains steam, pledges to intensify our
Even as we struggle to demand for a stronger Lokpal and Lokayukta to root out the financial corruption and irregularities in different government schemes, NAPM would like to point out that there are far larger issues at stake for our movement.
1. The scale of corruption involved in Common Wealth Games and 2-G
Spectrum has shocked the nation and UPA government has to answer for it and
take action but at the same time we are concerned about the inaction from all
the political parties on ecological corruption and the naked loot of our
natural resources rivers, forests, land, minerals etc.
2. Different political Parties across the political spectrum – illegal
mining in Bellary, Karnataka (BJP Government); Vedanata mining, POSCO Steel
plant, Tata Power and Steel Plants, Jindals and others in Orissa (BJD
Government); mining and steel companies in Jharkhand (BJP led government),
massive corruption in PDS and others in Assam (Congress led Government); Adarsh
Housing Society, Lavasa, Shivalik Ventures and other builders corruption in
Maharashtra (Congress led government) and othes are guilty of inaction and
facilitating the process of irregularities, gross violation and miscarriage of
justice and violence against those struggling against these. None of these
parties have shown political will in taking action against them.
3. The amount of black money stashed in the different foreign banks need
to be brought in and those responsible for it punished but at the same time
there is a need to stop the ongoing privatisation of various basic services -
transport, water and electricity supply, health, food, PDS and many more.
Privatisation is encouraging the big Corporations like Tata, Reliance, Jindals,
Pricewater House Coopers, Essar, Mittal's, Vedanata and many others to engage
in the loot and go to any extent in buying undue favours from the politicians
and government machinery. We strongly oppose privatisation of the basis
services in the name of efficiency and better services. Government can't shun
its responsibility towards the aam aadmi and provide them affordable and
quality food, water, education, health, and transport. It can't just remain the
privilege of 25% of the Indians - the middle and upper middle classes alone.
4. We as a nation has to ask for the accountability, transparency and the probity ar large in public life and not only in the government institutions. The corruption and violence unleashed by the State using its machinery including armed forces in parts of North East, Jammu and Kashmir and in Central India in the name of Operation Green Hunt has come to an end.
The dangerous trend has been the unholy nexus between the corporations, politicians and bureaucrats who have got together to facilitate the 'Great Indian Loot'. We are concerned by this and urge every one to target the systemic and institutionalised corruption. Jan Lokpal is the beginning alone and the movement will have to join hands with the millions fighting against the neo-liberal reforms which is facilitating a greater role and intervention for the Capital forces in the governance and thereby facilitating the corruption
and undermining the democratic institutions of the country. A check on the elected government's is what we need, but the inclusion of the Private Companies acting in the name of larger public purpose within the fold of Accountability and Transparency has to be ensured too.
WE CAN NO MORE REMAIN MUTE SPECTATORS TO THIS LOOT OF OUR RESOURCES WHICH IS
PERPETUATING THE IMPENDING CIVILISATIONAL CRISIS.
We exhort everyone to join the struggle of millions of working class people, adivasis, dalits, women, forest workers, fisherfolks in their quest for a dignified livelihood and justice. Our movement against corruption has to go beyond the visible symbols of corruption and reach out for a wider systemic transformation in the country today. Let us all join this struggle ! The process of Jan Lokpal Bill mandates that in general the legislative processes has to be much more democratic and government must come out in public
and hold nation-wide consultations on important legislations apart from Jan Lokpal, such as Land Acquisition Amendment Bill, UID Bill and others.
Lastly, we would also like to reiterate that in this fight against corruption we have to choose our allies with care and take those along who have the moral authority to stand with the masses and have struggled for peace, justice and democracy in the society rather than pushing for a communal, casteist, patriarchal and divisive agenda and facilitated ecological corruption.
WE SHALL FIGHT ! WE SHALL WIN !
Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey, Gabriele Dietrich, Sister Celia, Maj Gen (Retd.) S.G.Vombatkere (Retd), Thomas Kocherrey, Prafulla Samantara, Suniti S R, Roma, P Chennaiah, Dayamani Barla, Arundhati Dhuru, Ramakrishna Raju, Anand mazgaonkar, Rajendra Ravi, Bhupendera Singh Rawat, Geo Jose, Mukta Srivastava, Simpreet Singh, Pervin Jehangir, Kamayani Swami, Madhuresh Kumar
Viento Sur. Esther Vivas
Neoliberal globalization’s mission to privatise all areas of life including agriculture and natural resources threatens to condemn a vast part of the world’s population to hunger and poverty. Today it is estimated by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation that worldwide there are 925 million hungry people at a time when, paradoxically, we produce more food than ever before.
According to the international organisation GRAIN, food production has tripled since the 1960’s while the world population has only doubled. However, the mechanisms of the production, distribution and consumption of food serve private interests, preventing the poorest from obtaining essential sustenance.
The access of the local peasantry to access to land, water and seeds is not a guaranteed right. Consumers do not know where the food that we eat comes from, which makes it impossible to choose to consume GM-free products. The process of food production has been increasingly alienated from consumption and the increasing industrialisation and concentration of each stage of the agribusiness food chain in the hands of enormous agroindustrial concerns has led to a loss of autonomy for both farmers and consumers.
Opposed to this dominant model of agribusiness, in which the search for profits has been put before the food needs of people and respect for the environment, is the alternative paradigm of food sovereignty. This affirms the right of local peoples to define their own agricultural and food policies, control their own domestic food markets and promote local agriculture by preventing the dumping of surplus products. It encourages diverse and sustainable farming methods that respect the land, and sees international trade as only a complement to local production. Food sovereignty means returning control of natural assets such as land, water and seeds to local communities and fighting against the privatisation of all life.
This is a concept that goes beyond the food security proposals advocated by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in the 1970’s, which had the objective of ensuring the right of access to food for all people. Food security has not served as an alternative paradigm in that it does not question the current model of production, distribution and consumption and has been stripped of its original meaning. Food sovereignty includes this principle that everyone must eat, while also opposing the dominant agro-industrial system and the policies of international institutions that give it support.
Achieving this goal demands a strategy of breaking with the neoliberal agricultural policies imposed by the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. These organisations’ imposition of free trade agreements, structural adjustment, external debt and so on have served to erode people’s food sovereignty.
However, the demand for food sovereignty does not imply a romantic return to the past, but rather a regaining of awareness of traditional practices in order to combine them with new technologies and new knowledge. Neither should it consist of a parochial approach or a romantic idealisation of small producers but rather an entire rethinking of the global food system in order to encourage democratic forms of food production and distribution.
Promoting the construction of alternatives to the current agricultural and food model also involves an awareness of the role of gender, recognising the role women play in the cultivation and marketing of what we eat. Between 60% and 80% of the burden of food production in the South, according to FAO data, falls on women. They are the main producers of staple crops like rice, wheat and maize, which feed the poorest populations in the global South. But despite their key role in agriculture and food, they are, along with children, those most affected by hunger.
Women in many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America face enormous difficulties in accessing land, getting credit, etc. But these problems do not only exist in the South. In Europe many farmers have little or no legal status, since most of them work on family farms where administrative rights are the exclusive property of the owner of the farm and women, despite working on it, are not entitled to aid, land for cultivation, milk quotas, etc.
Food sovereignty has to break not only with a capitalist model of agriculture but also with a patriarchal system that is deeply rooted in a society that oppresses and subordinates women. Any notion of food sovereignty which does not include a feminist perspective is doomed to failure.
The concept of food sovereignty was first proposed in 1996 by the international movement La Via Campesina, which represents about 150 farmers’ organizations from 56 countries, in order to coincide with the World Food Summit of the FAO in Rome.
Via Campesina was formed in 1993, at the dawn of the antiglobalization movement, and gradually became one of the key organisations in the critique of neoliberal globalisation. Its rise is an expression of peasant resistance to the collapse of the countryside economy, caused by neoliberal policies and their intensification with the creation of the World Trade Organization.
Membership of Via Campesina is very heterogeneous in terms of the ideological origin of the sectors represented (landless, small farmers), but all belong to the rural sectors hardest hit by the advance of neoliberal globalisation. One of its achievements has been to overcome, with a considerable degree of success, the gap between the rural North and South, articulating joint resistance to the current model of economic liberalisation.
Since its inception, Via has created a politicised "peasant" identity, linked to land and food production, built in opposition to the current model of agribusiness and based on the defense of food sovereignty. It embodies a new kind of "peasant internationalism” ’that we can regard as "the peasant component" of the new internationalism represented by the global justice movement.
One of the arguments used by opponents of food sovereignty is that organic farming is unable to feed the world. However, this claim has been demonstrated to be false by the results of an extensive international consultation led by the World Bank in partnership with the FAO, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) UNESCO, representatives of governments, private institutions, scientists, social interest groups, etc. This project was designed as a hybrid consulting model, involving over 400 scientists and experts in food and rural development over four years.
It is interesting to note that, although the report was supported by these institutions, it concluded that agroecological production provided food and income to the poorest, while also generating surpluses for the market, and was a better guarantor of food security than transgenic production.
The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology (IAASTD) report, published in early 2009, argued for local, peasant and family production of food and the redistribution of land to rural communities. The report was rejected by agribusiness and filed away by the World Bank, while 61 governments approved it quietly, except for the U.S., Canada and Australia, among others.
In the same vein, a study by the University of Michigan, published in June 2007 by the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, compared conventional agricultural production to organic. The report concluded that agro-ecological farms were more highly productive and more capable of ensuring food security throughout the world, than systems of industrialised farming and free trade. It estimated that, even according to the most conservative estimates, organic agriculture could provide at least as much food as it produced today, although the researchers considered as a more realistic estimate that organic farming could increase global production food up to 50%.
A number of other studies have demonstrated how small-scale peasant production can have a high performance while using less fossil fuel, especially if food is traded locally or regionally. Consequently, investment in family farm production and ensuring access to natural resources is the best option in terms of combating climate change and ending poverty and hunger, especially given that three-quarters of the world’s poorest people are small peasants.
In the field of trade it has proved crucial to break the monopoly of large retailers, and to avoid large-scale distribution circuits (through the use of local markets, direct sales, consumer groups, Community supported agriculature and so on), thereby avoiding intermediaries and establishing close relationships between producer and consumer.
Alternatives to the dominant agricultural model, which generates poverty, hunger, inequality and climate change, do exist. They necessitate a break with the capitalist logic imposed on the agricultural system and an insistence on the right of the peoples of the world to food sovereignty.
This article appears in the April/May edition of Socialist Resistance