photo: Simply CVR/Creative Commons
Two stories coming through on land grabs in the name of 'development' that are worth paying attention to. Al Jazeera has a good opinion piece from the ever prolific Vandana Shiva where she describes land grabs in India as being a war on farmers. Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that US universities, including big names like Harvard and Vanderbilt, are involved in African land grabs via the proxy of hedge funds they invest with. Those universities, which aren't the only ones, are working through British hedge funds and European financial speculators to buy or lease African farmland, displacing thousands of people, The Guardian reports.
Based on research done by the Oakland Institute, Emergent asset management has invested up to $500 million in the most fertile regions of Africa.
Oakland said investors overstated the benefits of the deals for the communities involved. "Companies have been able to create complex layers of companies and subsidiaries to avert the gaze of weak regulatory authorities. Analysis of the contracts reveal that many of the deals will provide few jobs and will force many thousands of people off the land," said Anuradha Mittal, Oakland's director."
Read more, it's a sorry affair: The Guardian
As for the situation in India, Vandana Shiva gives the following example of land being taken from farmers and essentially given to land speculators and developers.
In Bhatta Parsual, Greater Noida (UP), about 6000 acres of land is being acquired by infrastructure company Jaiprakash Associates to build luxury townships and sports facilities - including a Formula 1 racetrack - in the guise of building the Yamuna Expressway. In total, the land of 1225 villages is to be acquired for the 165km Expressway. The farmers have been protesting this unjust land acquisition, and last week, four people died - while many were injured during a clash between protesters and the police on May 7, 2011. If the government continues its land wars in the heart of India's bread basket, there will be no chance for peace.
In any case, money cannot compensate for the alienation of land. As 80-year-old Parshuram, who lost his land to the Yamuna Expressway, said: "You will never understand how it feels to become landless."
While land has been taken from farmers at Rs 300 ($6) per square metre by the government - using the Land Acquistion Act - it is sold by developers at Rs 600,000 ($13,450) per square metre - a 200,000 per cent increase in price - and hence profits. This land grab and the profits contribute to poverty, dispossession and conflict.
In the end, Shiva says that the largest democracy in the world "is destroying its democratic fabric through its land wars."
Read more, it's worth it and its another sorry state of affairs: Aj Jazeera English
More on Land Grabs
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