What a food park in Bihar’s Khagaria can tell us about the future of corporate agriculture in India

27 April 2021
A sign board outside the Pristine food park in Ekania village. The setting up of the park followed a litany of misinformation and illegalities that lost the people of Ekania their land, livelihood and employment.
Neel Madhav
A sign board outside the Pristine food park in Ekania village. The setting up of the park followed a litany of misinformation and illegalities that lost the people of Ekania their land, livelihood and employment.
Neel Madhav

On 30 November 2018, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, then the union minister of food processing, was set to inaugurate a food park owned by a Delhi-based company Pristine Logistics & Infraprojects Private Limited in Ekania village, in Bihar’s Khagaria district. After a brief inspection of the food park—then just two sheds and a vestigial wall—she left in a huff, refusing to inaugurate a project that was far from complete. “Nobody will be allowed to cheat farmers and youths,” the Hindustan Times quoted her as saying. “Neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor any of his ministers will inaugurate any incomplete project.” Three years earlier, at a foundation laying ceremony in Ekania, Badal told the media that the park would be completed in two years. What has come up in the village instead, is likely one of the first examples of corporate commercial farming that activists fear will become a national reality as a result of the farm laws.

The failed inauguration of the Pristine food park is the culmination of a litany of misinformation and illegalities that lost the people of Ekania their land, livelihood and employment. The food park currently sits on land that was acquired by Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority in 1987. Many of the farmers who lost their land have not been fully compensated yet. Farmers also told me that the state government reduced the amount of compensation they should have gotten by misrepresenting the land as infertile and of low value. Along with a monetary compensation, farmers were promised jobs in a growth centre that would be built there.

However, no growth centre was built there until 2011. That year, BIADA transferred the land to Pristine, who were tasked with building a food park on the land. According to several locals I spoke to, the park was supposed to employ people whose land had been acquired to construct it, as well as acquire food grain from the surrounding region.

Neel Madhav is an independent journalist based in Khagaria, Bihar, who covers politics, agriculture and social movements.

Keywords: farm laws 2020 Farmers' Protest Bihar agriculture Nitish Kumar
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