Land grabbing by the mighty

The Punjab government has found itself under the glare of intense international criticism with calls going out for human rights organisations to become actively involved in a gross violation of rights. UN Special Rapporteur Oliver De Schutter has singled out the provincial government because of its alleged land grabbing schemes that aim to lease fertile agricultural lands to rich foreigners — particularly Arabs — at the expense of the poverty stricken masses. Describing these ‘projects’ as “lacking in transparency” and shunning consultation with the concerned communities, Schutter aptly summarised them as only “benefiting the investors and some of the local elite.”

Notable among these land-grabbing projects is the Ravi National Park scheme where on the private residential land agricultural land of owners in five different tehsils all forms of construction, development, sale and transfer have been banned. It is lands such as these that are to be leased to the highest bidder.In a country where the citizen is denied basic amenities and sources of livelihood, where the rising costs of living are pushing people towards crime or suicide and where enough land-grabbing mafias exist to make life a living hell for the common folk, to have the government partake of such nefarious activities is repulsive. The Punjab government is manipulating the people and their land illegally. Loud protests show that the people are being pushed up against a wall but, because it is the provincial government that is allegedly at the helm of these despicable acts, there is no one they can turn to for justice.

In the case of leasing land to rich foreignerd, stead of providing the land to the poor for small-scale farming purposes, the government is lining its pockets to secure the food resources of other countries.Balochistan was recently in the news for the same reason. The provincial government there is contemplating leasing out land in Lasbela for the hunting of the endangered Houbara Bustard. Not only is this a violation of animal protection laws, it is a gross violation of the rights of the people. The people in Balochistan have known nothing but strife and denial of their rights, now they have to contend with foreign dignitaries being handed their land on a silver platter.Enough of this circus where the rich only serve the richer and the impoverished are denied even the semblance of a dignified existence. Land grabbing by those in power is criminal and it must be stopped at all costs. The protests must get louder and the international human rights community must intervene to reverse this alarming trend – Dailytimes