Sunday, June 23, 2013

Land acquisition by the state has become an arena of widespread conflict in India.  This paper is a status report on conflicts, prices, and agents in contemporary land acquisition processes.  The principal purpose here is to provide solid empirical information on current conditions, including a compendium of recent land transactions, conflict situations (including both some well-known and relatively unknown ones), prices (from a wide variety of settings, from the core of south Mumbai to the mining lands of Orissa and Jharkhand), and agents (buyers, sellers, political parties, and civil society).  The key findings are these.  First, contrary to popular belief, the conflicts are not fundamentally between capitalists and peasants but between the state and peasants.  Second, there are two core reasons for these conflicts; in many cases because not enough is being paid for land; in several others because the land is "priceless", an idea that I explain in detail.  Third: the price of agricultural land has increased by about an order of magnitude in less than a decade and it is yet to reach its true scarcity value.  Finally, the fundamental explanation for the conflicts (happening now, but after decades of iniquities) comes from information theory; specifically, the growth of new information agents in the form of civil society and political parties.

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