Rajasthan government is de-facto real estate agent: Pilot

March 7th, 2008 - 12:03 pm ICT by admin  

(Interview)
By Liz Mathew
New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) Congress party MP Sachin Pilot, who hails from Rajasthan, has hit out at the state’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, alleging it is acquiring farmland and selling it to builders. “What has happened in Rajasthan is that the state government has become a de-facto real estate agent. They acquire land - supposedly for public service purpose - forcibly from farmers and sell it to builders and businessmen,” Pilot told IANS in an interview.

“A lot of financial transactions are taking place,” alleged the Wharton Business School-educated politician who is the son of late Congress leader Rajesh Pilot.

“When the government of the day becomes a real estate agent, you can imagine what kind of expectations we can have from it,” he said.

The 30-year-old MP from Dausa minced no words in attacking the Vasundhara Raje-led government, which he said was busy with “internal fighting, power struggle and killing people with its police force”.

The government has intermittently used force to quell protests by farmers in Ganganagar district over the allocation of water from the Indira Gandhi Canal.

Because Rajasthan, a desert state, has only one river that flows the year round and few other sources of surface water, its residents rely almost entirely on aquifers. Rainfall across the state averages about 20 inches annually, about half the national rate.

Pilot however blamed the government’s “attitude” for the water crisis in the state where, he said, “most of the water resource arrangements are either disregarded or get entangled in a litigation process”.

Saying the state government should have engaged in negotiations with neighbouring Punjab and Haryana states for sharing water resources, Pilot said: “The attitude of the Rajasthan government has been very stern, not of one that has the willingness to negotiate and resolve a problem - but, instead, of posturing.

“In a democracy, this kind of posturing and aggressive stance does not work,” he said, pointing out that the government used the police force to suppress protesting farmers.

“In the history of Rajasthan in the last five years, 15 people or more have been killed when police used force. It is a shameful thing. When a crisis comes, people’s demand in a democracy has to be dealt with appropriately.

“But to come out with lathi charge, use force, kill them, shoot them…I think you are not doing justice to the whole concept of a democratic government.”

Pilot, who has also emerged as a top leader of the influential Gujjar community, also justified the community’s campaign for Scheduled Tribes (ST) status.

Pointing out that it was an election promise by the BJP and Raje, Pilot said: “The BJP has been in power for four years. They should have done something for the fulfilment of their promise.

“When you promise something and you don’t deal with it, it backfires. That’s what happened. It’s unfortunate.”

Gujjars, who belong to the other backward class (OBC) category, have been demanding ST status on the grounds that it would give them better employment and educational opportunities. At least 26 people were killed in violent protests by Gujjars last year.

Pilot denied that the community was “one among the richest” in the country. “They are farmers,” he said.

He is also disappointed with the way the BJP government has been implementing central projects.

“The central government, without any prejudice, has given enough money to the states in the last four years. But all that the state government has done is to put the chief minister’s photograph on the hoardings and schemes and pass them about as their own government programmes.”

According to Pilot, the Rajasthan government’s debts amount to Rs.170 billion. “Each citizen of Rajasthan has Rs.12,000 of non-payment on his head.”

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