PATNA Former civil servant, diplomat and governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, on Monday, drew a parallel between the plight of the farmers of the country, at present, and of indigo farmers of north Bihar in 1917, when Mahatma Gandhi had launched the ‘Champaran Satyagrah’, on the call of a peasant, Raj Kumar Shukl.
“It was the atmosphere of fear and coercion that had brought Gandhiji to Champaran. It was again a similar atmosphere in 1974-75 that resulted in a movement led by JP. Today, we again need to ask if such an atmosphere has surfaced once again,” said Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.
He was delivering the inaugural address at a national convention on ‘Mahatma Gandhi’s life-philosophy’, to mark the launch of the year-long centenary celebration of the 1917 Champaran Satyagrah, at Patna’s Gyan Bhawan, an auditorium in the newly-built Samrat Ashok International Convention Centre (SAICC).
Questioning the ordinance route to land acquisition, he said it was imperative to hold dialogue on balancing land use for agriculture and industries, as both were required.
“Three ordinance, one after another, were promulgated to take away (farmers’) land without debate and discussion on social impact assessment or involvement of Gram Sabha. The ordinance route is for an emergency situation and the country is confronted with far more serious issues,” he said.
Gandhi also questioned the centre’s move to make Aadhar mandatory for social welfare schemes like midday meal (MDM) and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS), saying even Nandan Nilekani, ex-chairman of the Unique identification authority of India, may not have visualized the way it has gone.
“I am not criticizing it. It is a powerful move to usher in reforms. But ultimately it is just a number and we need to be cautious against the apprehensions raised about it. Despite the apex court order, it is required for labour payment under MNREGS and even for providing MDM to students”, he said.
Gandhi said farmers were committing suicide because both they and agriculture were in pain. “Land is being looted and farmers have to struggle even for seeds,” he said.
Social activist Medha Patkar attacked the Centre for ‘killing’ agriculture by distributing 3-4-lakh hectares of land for industrial corridors, “at the cost of the poor”.
She also praised Bihar CM Nitish Kumar for raising the issue of the Ganga’s plight and his call for a national movement for protection of all rivers and natural resources.
Gandhian philosopher Prerna Desai said that what was being presented as development was actually an “offshoot of the economy of greed and fear”.
Retired judge and freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari thanked Kumar for implementing one of Gandhi’s dreams through prohibition. “Revolution has no arithmetic. Gandhi and JP did not accept any post, but they ushered in change nobody else could. Those in power never bring change,” he added.
Others who spoke included Gandhi Sangharalay chairman Razi Ahmad, Gandhi Peace Foundation president Kumar Prashant, philosopher Sachidanand Sinha and Gandhian thinker Dr SN Subbararo.