ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Abhijit GuhaSubscribe to RSS - Abhijit Guha

The Empire, Its Law and the Bankruptcy of Anthropologists

Anthropologists in India are ill-equipped to engage in a fruitful dialogue with the government as regards the acquisition of land effected under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, even after 70 years of independence. With land being one of the most vital life support systems of the poor populations, anthropologists should generate a solid database on the biocultural impacts of land acquisition. Ironically, the Anthropological Survey of India has not yet been able to produce scientific data on the biocultural impact of land takeover, particularly on food insecurity and its consequent impact on health and nutrition.

Have We Learnt from Singur?

No one seems to be interested in the ground realities of Singur now, after a decade of the tumultuous 2006–07 in West Bengal. This kind of unconcern for the peasantry is not new among the Kolkata-based academicians and intellectuals, who represented West Bengal to India and the world since the colonial period. The Trinamool Congress government’s enthusiasm to generate capital and employment, either through legal means or by the play of market forces, seemed to be mere populist political rhetoric for contesting election battles in West Bengal.

Peasant Resistance in West Bengal a Decade before Singur and Nandigram

Land acquisition in the name of building industry in Singur and Nandigram in West Bengal has seen popular opposition from various political entities and intellectuals. However, such opposition was lacking in earlier cases of acquisition of fertile land ostensibly for industrial development of the state. Despite the lack of such support from civil society and the polity, the people affected still protested to ensure compensation.

Resettlement and Rehabilitation

The department of land resources of the ministry of rural development published the National Policy on Resettlement and Rehabilitation on the eve of the 2004 parliamentary elections. Decision-makers produced a policy document without the backing of any legislative or statutory powers. This is apart from other weaknesses in the policy such as the neglect of pragmatic aspects of implementation, and the omission of compensation for common pool resources, sharecroppers and migrant agricultural labourers.

Land Acquisition in a West Bengal District

The process of land acquisition for industrial development initiated since the mid-1990s in West Bengal's Paschim Medinipur district threatens to undermine the pro-peasant policy of the Left Front government. Moreover, the government continues to rely on the Land Acquisition Act enacted by an earlier colonial regime for such purposes. While agricultural land following acquisition now lies waste, there has been an increase in the number of the landless and small and marginal farmers.
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