Industrializing India leaves little room for farmers

Wed Sep 15, 2010 3:23am EDT
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By C.J. Kuncheria

SANAND, India (Reuters) - Jagdishji Vaghela is one of hundreds of thousands of farmers standing in the way of India's breakneck economic expansion.

Determined not to give up his land for an industrial park in the western state of Gujarat, the 55-year-old farmer scorns at talk of how the benefits of industrialization in Asia's third-largest economy will trickle down to people like him.

Despite a nearby plant producing what is touted as the world's cheapest car, he pointed to a water-logged track leading to his village. "What is this development they are talking about? Look at the road, it's completely flooded," Vaghela said.

"I won't give it (land) away. If we give it what do we do? We will have to search for jobs, but even they are not available."

As India industrializes rapidly, resistance from farmers such as Vaghela and rows over acquisition of farmland for industry have become a sensitive issue in a country where two-thirds of the 1.2 billion population is dependent on agriculture.

But Vaghela knows his options are limited.

Farm income is declining, his crops have repeatedly failed and if he holds out too long, he risks having the land lose its value as it remains a land-locked enclave between factories.

The uncertain future he and other farmers like him across the country face has led to a string of violent protests against attempts to acquire land for factories, power plants or roads, posing a risk to India's economic ambitions.   Continued...