The controversy over Amitabh Bachchan being allotted land in Uttar Pradesh by the Mulayam Singh Yadav government and then being denied of it because the court (surprise, surprise) found he was not a farmer is now assuming epidemic proportions. Media reports suggest that a host of other VIPs, including Aamir Khan, have been served notice in Maharashtra on more or less similar grounds.
Aamir was on every television channel last night making the same points that had presumably drummed into his head by his lawyers.
Namely, that he is a farmer, that his father and grandfather and great grandfather were farmers. That he had only recently bought the land, that he had not begun any cultivation. And that although he drew his income from acting, he was “by birth” an agriculturist, and that there was nothing to suggest that he might not go back to it after retiring from the silver screen.
All this back-pedalling is, of course, designed to prevent litigation of the Barabanki kind which felled Big B. But the point to ponder is whether it is such a crime for non-farming Indians to own farm land in their own country? Aren’t we all, if we go back sufficiently enough in our geneological tree, agriculturists “by birth”?
And which tahsildar won’t issue an RTC for a price to prove that we are?
At one level, the farm-land-for-farmers theory is bogus and based on the rapidly disappearing premise that asli farmers and agriculturists want to remain farmers and agriculturists “till death”. This, as the mounting suicides and the urbanisation figures of India show, is far from the truth.
Above all, there is a very obvious attempt by votebank politicians to muddy the waters. Somebody wants to buy, somebody wants to sell. So on what earthly ground can the State prevent either Bachchan or Aamir from buying some land? And who will be appeased by this? And for how long?
If the State can evolve laws that so easily deprive thousands of farmers of lakhs of acres of farm land to set up Special Economic Zones with food courts, amusement parks, and worse, what is to prevent an urban non-farmer from wanting to buy up what he thinks is or will be his rural idyll?
Surely, if Aamir Khan is a farmer, Vijay Mallya must be Choudhury Charan Singh.