Land to the tillers for genuine food system change

Day Of The Landless 2021 The Asian Peasant Coalition (APC)’s observance of 29 March as “Land of the Landless: Land to the Tillers”, reminds us of the words of Mahatma Gandhi : “In reality, the toilers is the owner of what he produces. If the toilers intelligently combine, they will become an irresistible power.” Socialist leader Dr Ram Manohar Lohia had also echoed in the last century that “the most exploited element in Indian society was the landless village labourers and farmers.” Dr Ram Manohar Lohia had said that the freedom struggle in India could not be completed until the prosperity of a humble Kisan (farmer) became a reality. When Dr Lohia was elected President of Hind Kisan Panchayat in 1949, he said in his address that the reconstruction of India was primarily a question of the reconstruction of her five and a half lakhs (550,000) of villages. Like Mahatma Gandhi, he wanted a village-based democracy in India. Each village should be a zone of peace where proprietary rights of land should be given to the impoverished and actual tillers of the soil and even landless labourers would be able to secure rehabilitation and social justice. Dr Lohia had put the spotlight on the bitter truth of so-called ‘urban development’ when he said that our villages were neglected by the government for the benefit of urban areas. Village dwellers were exploited economically and culturally. Land must belong to the tiller, was Dr Lohia’s priority, in his scheme of agrarian revolution. REALITY IS GRIM: MOST LAND DOES NOT BELONG TO THOSE WHO TILL IT So many decades after our independence, the words of Gandhi and Lohia have only gained relevance manifold – because most land still does not belong to the tiller. The kind of ‘development’ model we are chasing, is not resulting in “tillers should own the land” but even those who have land are at risk of losing it. After the policies of globalization, privatisation and liberalisation that were implemented in India since the early 1990s, even land-holder farmers are becoming landless, said Harinder Singh Manshahia, farmer and farmers’…