India abolishes controversial land ownership law

Written by Staff Writer by By Yousef Gamal El-Din and James Arkinson, CNN

Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh, one of India’s most senior politicians, announced this week that the government is changing the law so that farmers in the country will no longer be forced to sell their land at a price stipulated by the government or fear losing their livelihood.

Welcoming the change of plans in what has been a tough year for farmers, Mahatma Gandhi memorialist Swami Dayanand Saraswati tweeted: “Many farmers took to capital flight in search of better opportunities. The law must be complied with.”

The khels that farmers make are one of the biggest milestones of their crops. In the northern state of Rajasthan, families grow around 2 million tons of potatoes each year, sometimes sharing the crops and making money from them, after selling them at a local market.

Suresh Srivastava / Reuters Hundreds of farmers carrying a farmer play a gig from a mobile phone call during a protest march against new farm loans in India.

India’s law on land acquisitions came into effect in 2004, stipulating that farmers have to be offered “fair and remunerative” compensation for all of their land and crops — a fact farmers became aware of as their lands became ploughed and their produce was destined for India’s booming city centers.

Shortly after the law was introduced, farmers took to the streets, often encircling land-poor districts, getting the backing of farmers’ groups.

Weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi won the elections, the BJP government announced in November 2016 that it would scrap the land acquisition law, transferring all its duties to state governments — a policy change that sparked violence.

In 2017, the government refused to carry out a land acquisition case worth $122 million, with Agra Chief Minister Ollie Singh saying the government had to “do away with our uniform land acquisition policy” to achieve better “results.”

News of the U-turn comes just over a week after a major protest by thousands of farmers against a new land law led by farmer leader Kishore Tiwari in Rajasthan.

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