Eminent domain is the concept that governments can acquire private land for “improvement” and “development” purposes. But what happens when you combine
- Farms that have been in families for generations
- A situation where land is the only thing you own, where all your value, your life and your sense of worth is tied to the land you own
- The insecurity that comes from knowing that your livelihood and shelter is being taken away from you and things are going to change. In the end, they might be for the better, your farm was not doing too well to begin with, but the uncertainty and fear of the unknown are much bigger in the short term than any possible long term benefits.
- The typical high handed situation in which the government dealt with the villagers in question
Well, in India, people die.
At least seven people are reported to have died after police fired on farmers protesting at the acquisition of farmland for industry in eastern India. The clash happened in Nandigram in West Bengal state where thousands of riot police have been sent to quell protests against a planned chemical hub. Police say they met fierce resistance from thousands of villagers. Police say two people have died, but doctors in a local hospital say five more men have died of bullet wounds. ‘Land grab’ Farmers in Nandigram have been resisting the West Bengal government’s plan to acquire farms for setting up a hub for chemical industries by an Indonesian company.
As India’s manufacturing infrastructure and increasingly rapid industrialization starts to catch up with its already booming software economy, watch for these tensions to get worse. Indian governments are not used to handling issues like these in an equitable fashion. Hopefully, the sacrifices of these people will change something, but I am not optimistic. Lives are cheap in India. Nobody’s going to write a song about these 7 dead.