The English philosopher John Locke claimed that three unalienable rights belong to all human beings: life, liberty and property. Long before the invention of the iPad or the SUV, land was the ultimate property that someone could possess. Locke’s thought was that property, land upon which to earn a living or raise a family, was necessary for true human development and health.
In an environment like India, where the economy and the population are both rising, land is an increasingly valuable commodity. In rural India, like most 3rd world countries, land has been passed from father to son for hundreds of years. Familial identity and reputation may be wrapped up in a land that has belonged to them for centuries. But, farm land has been increasingly gobbled up by corporations seeking to turn that land into an urban environment where industry can flourish.
In June 2011, the government of Uttar Pradesh unveiled a new land acquisition policy. It was praised by lawmakers as ensuring a seller’s market for farmland, while at the same time making land development easier for India’s overall urbanization. The new piece of legislation has been met with controversy and fierce protest. Critics identify the promise of “a seller’s market” as a fraud. Instead of protecting farmers, it has made their exploitation more efficient. Instead of aiding farmers, it has misguided them and driven many off the land of their fathers and into urban slums.
We echo the Psalmist who proclaims, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (Psalm 24:1)!” God’s rights to the land that he created demands that all of his children should have access to enough land to safely and securely raise a family. This hope is increasingly threatened by the greed of those who value profit over and above human beings. To quote the historian Howard Zinn, “In a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners.”
Written by: Andrew Bartlett