New Delhi: As India
witnessed a "long march" by thousands of tribals, farmers and
landless people for land reforms, P.V. Rajagopal, who led the
movement, said a new form of zamindari is emerging in India with
corporates acquiring huge chunks of land.
Zamindari, the pre-colonial practice of having landlords to
collect tax from farmers, was abolished post independence in
Rajagopal, however, warned that with large areas of land being
acquired by corporates, a fresh form of the medieval system may
"The situation is very bad. Corporates have become the new
zamindars and a few people are accumulating all the land,"
Rajagopal, founder of people's movement Ekta Parishad, told IANS
in an interview on the phone from Agra where the members of the
group were stationed.
"Those who will actually till the land have nothing to their
claim. Even the middle class cannot buy land in this country,
forget about the poor. Adivasis have taken to violence, farmers
are committing suicide. All this should end," he added.
The march ended Thursday after Rural Development Minister Jairam
Ramesh agreed to frame a national policy on land reforms within
The Ekta Parishad, which led a year-long Jan Satyagrah march
starting from Kanyakumari, the southern tip of India, on Oct 2,
2011, - Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary - mobilised people
across the country demanding land reforms. After covering 352 of
India's 640 districts, it concluded in Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh
on Oct 2 this year.
From Gwalior, thousands started a 350-km-long march to Delhi. But
it ended at Agra after the agreement with the government. Most of
those on foot march were tribals, farmers, landless labourers and
other marginalised sections demanding land rights.
Recounting about the yatra, Rajagopal said they succeeded to a
great extent in bringing together different castes and groups as
well as "invisible groups" like transgenders and nomads.
Describing the situation of landless farmers as poor, Rajagopal
said without government intervention, the poor cannot get their
share of land.
"The rich are buying land for the next 10 generations. Without
government intervention, land cannot reach the poor. All existing
laws like the Land Ceiling Act and other acts are there. But when
it comes to powerful people, these acts are overlooked," he said.
India has witnessed struggles on land issues since independence.
The Maoist movement, which is currently one of the biggest
security threats, is also directly linked to the land struggle.
As per estimates, over 270 laws relating to land reforms have been
enacted since independence in 1947.
The most prominent among these is the Land Ceiling Act that lays
down limits of land holdings. It also enables the government to
acquire surplus land that it could then distribute among the
landless and marginal farmers.
Rajagopal, who was for a short time part of Anna Hazare's campaign
against corruption, said he chose the path of non-violence to
highlight the "burning issue" of the landless in India.
"There have been different approaches, like the Bhoodan movement
was on spiritual ground. The Naxals (Maoists) have taken the path
of violence, but the problem can only be solved through
non-violence," he maintained.
The Bhoodan movement was a voluntary land reform movement in India
started by Acharya Vinoba Bhave in 1951.
"This is the modern world, we cannot behave like primitive people
who take to violence. Dialogue is the only way," he added.
He, however, said the government has been insensitive to the issue
so far and action on the administrative front is needed.
"It is also high time the government started taking the problems
of poor seriously. There are young people who can take to violence
if they see their issues are not being addressed. I hope this
cultured way of non-violence will be learnt," he added.
(Anjali Ojha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)