Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Singur Judgement and LJA

The 10 year agitation of the farmers of Singur, West Bengal, over the acquisition of about 1000 acres of fertile agricultural land by the Government, for providing land to the Tata company for setting up an automobile industry, has come to a fitting conclusion. The Supreme Court, in a recent judgement, has ruled on the validity of the demands and upheld the rights of the displaced farmers. The relevant portions of the judgement reads as follows:

“...In the facts of this case it would be appropriate to direct that land is given back to all land
owners since they have been deprived of the usufruct of the land for a decade as
such the compensation paid to them shall not be recovered. They are permitted to
retain it or claim it in full and final settlement of claim towards damages for
deprivation of use of their land etc……...
The land shall be given back to the land owners and compensation if any paid to them
shall not be recovered from them those who have not collected it are free to
collect the same in lieu of damages for deprivation of possession for ten years...”

All the farmers, whose lands were acquired, will get back their lands and any compensation paid (or promised to be paid which will now be paid) will be retained by the farmers in lieu of their being deprived of their fundamental right to practise their livelihood by virtue of their being dispossessed of their lands.

The import of the judgement for Lokavidya Samaj

This judgement is NOT about procedural lapses, compensation for displacement or loss thereof. This judgement lies at the heart of LJA viz

i) Every individual has a fundamental right to practise a livelihood in order to lead a life of dignity. 
ii)Every individual has the right to choose his profession/livelihood.
iii)Such choice is normally made on the basis of the individual’s knowledge and skills. (Such knowledge/skill may be acquired by working with family, elders of the community or through undergoing courses of instruction and training in institutions set up for these purposes)
iv)All ‘products’ based on such knowledge/skills are equally valuable and are entitled to the same     pay/remuneration

All members of Lokavdiya Samaj have acquired, and continue to practice, knowledge and skills through working with their family,elders and the community they live in. Whereas, all members who belong to the educated sections acquire their knowledge and skills from Schools, Colleges, Universities etc and practise professions/livelihoods based on such institution-acquired knowledge/skills. The farmers of Singur, (and in fact all over the country who are part of Lokavidya Samaj), are dependent on land (a natural resource) for their livelihood i.e they practise their knowledge and skills using this natural resource. Whereas, the demand of the ‘educated-unemployed’ (whose interests were apparently being catered to by the West Bengal Government through this acquisition),is for the setting up of industries and workplaces that would provide them employment where they would practise their acquired knowledge/skills.

The Supreme Court judgement indicates a recognition of this dire need of the farmers of Singur and has sought, through this judgement, to annul the disasterous effects of the displacement of these farmers.

The Right to Life and The Right to a livelihood based on( live by) Lokavidya

The fundamental Right to Life is recognised by all societies the world over. This Right is enshrined in all Constitutions and held sacrosanct by all religions.

When a child( or any living being) is born into this Earth ; it has a fundamental right of access to all resources that are required to sustain its life such as clean air, water, food, clothing, shelter etc. It is also incumbent on members of the society into which it is born to provide it means to grow( from a dependent) and acquire an independent status; which implies acquisition and practice of knowledge/skills and livelihood that would enable it to live a life of (minimal) dignity and become a contributing member of societal growth, sustenance and development. The Right to Life is really a Right to a Sustainable Life of Dignity.

The current demand of ordinary people, the world over, is a guarantee of gainful livelihood/ employment that would provide a minimum wage to ensure a life of dignity. This demand is considered a just and honourable demand. Today, however, we see that vast sections of humanity are being deprived of access to natural resources – clean air, water, environment which are essential to healthy Life, and to natural and other resources that are essential for their Livelihoods. This is because the current planners and controllers of development, while ignoring the knowledge claim (Lokavidya) of Lokavdiya Samaj, consider their acquired knowledge to be far superior to Lokavidya, which is termed backward, obsolete and unscientific and a thing of the past and having no relevance today and incapable of contributing whatsoever to human and social development. Hence, it is concluded that all livelihoods based on Lokavidya need to be sub-planted by more ‘modern’ occupations and livelihoods. This model of development leads to acquisition of every natural resource - land,water, forest, mineral wealth etc for industry-related purposes and, most often ruthlessly, displaces ordinary people from all natural resources thus depriving them of the right to practise their chosen professions/livelihood.

However, the great spread of growing poverty, sickness, environmental degradation and violent conflict the world over, is witness to the fact of the failure of this attitude and outlook and to the inherent degeneracy of this model of development. These results are there for all to see and the life-threatening brunt is being borne by Lokavidya Samaj.

This judgement, not only draws attention to the Right to live by Lokavidya, it also, by implication, negates the assumption of the Government that the acquisition was for public purpose of providing gainful employment to a larger number of people including those who were displaced. The farmers had claimed at the outset, that it was farming that they knew and not industry-related work(which implied that they would be deemed unfit for employment in the proposed industry). They had thereby ab initio debunked the rationale behind the acquisition by the Government. This judgement will provide great impetus to the movements against displacement.

The minimum wage/pay demand of LJA

In the light of this judgement, the current demand of LJA for a ‘ minimum wage/pay to ALL working people on par with the Government fixed minimum wage/pay’ comes into clear focus.
The minimum wage is arrived at by factoring in all requirements for living a life of minimum dignity and so the LJA demand is a demand for the recognition of the essential equality between University-acquired knowledge/skill and the different livelihood/skill-streams in Lokavidya and that everybody be given a minimum wage that will provide for a life of dignity.

The Singur judgement should bolster the demand of Lokavidya Samaj for “equal minimum pay to ALL working people” and strengthen the unity within the ranks of Lokavidya Samaj. 


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