Look, bro, do you really want to be a small farmer? No, it’s not a rhetorical question. Just think about it. Do you really enjoy working your butt off doing back-breaking, thankless jobs on that handkerchief-sized plot of yours? What do you get for all your effort? A pittance, my friend.
And even that’s by no means certain. You slog day and night, you take huge risks, you coax a few thousand rupees out of the local moneylender to buy seeds and fertiliser and one gloomy morning you wake up and find a hailstorm has destroyed your entire crop. Or the rains fail and your crop withers. Or there’s a flood. Or prices crash and you can’t cover your costs. So what will you do? Drink pesticide and kill yourself? Abandon your wife and kids to the tender mercies of the moneylender?
Seriously bro, what is the point of it? And that’s apart from wasting your entire life in the boondocks. No malls, no shopping, hardly any entertainment, it’s a dog’s life, pal. No wonder kids these days don’t want to be farmers. Your kids are smart, they want the bright lights of the cities. And by holding on to that damn farm you’re condemning them to a miserable existence. What happens when they grow up, bro? Will you divide your little plot into even smaller bits, to parcel it out among them? How on earth will they make a living? So you see, bro, my heart bleeds for you, I’m actually doing you a favour by compulsorily acquiring your land. The best way to help you peasants is to take away your farms.
What’s more, because I love you guys, I’m offering you four times the market price. Yeah, sure, your notion of market price may not agree with mine, but you should grab what you can get. We’re going to build smart cities and broad roads and gleaming towers and shiny new factories on your land and you should be proud. Yes, we do have lots of land lying vacant in special economic zones and industrial parks, but we want more.
So catch a train to the nearest city, rent a cheap room in a slum and find some work. Heck, there might even be electricity and running water. Many of your fellow villagers are already there, doing very well as liftmen, watchmen, drivers or maids. Why don’t you get a job as a construction labourer, helping build those smart cities? Or, if for some silly reason you want to continue working on farms, go and work for some rich farmer. Why, you could even become a politician.
Bro, we have too many peasants on small, unproductive farms. They’re holding up the country’s growth. Other nations developed by people going off their farms and getting jobs in industry, where productivity is much higher. So we need your land for development. All the economists tell us so. Surely you don’t want to stand in the way of the country’s progress? I hope you see now, when I take your farm away from you without your consent, I’m doing the most pro-farmer thing possible. Jai Kisan.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed by the author are personal