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Proletarianisation of rural communities gathering pace

Kompas - April 14, 2012

Jakarta Ė Because the government has failed to fulfill its promise of agrarian reform, the process of rural proletarianisation continues unabated. Rural communities, the majority of whom are farmers that once owned land, have begun to loose their source of income because they no longer have control over land.

Agricultural involution, which has long been predicted, is already taking place in rural Indonesia, said Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA) General Secretary Idham Arsyad in Jakarta on Friday April 13.

"The proletarianisation of rural communities is gathering pace. People who once owned land, no longer own land, in order to eat they must sell their labour because they've lost their source of income from the land", said Arsyad.

This picture of rural proletarianisation is becoming increasingly commonplace in various parts of Indonesia. "Our rural communities are already extremely poor. Land on a massive scale is controlled by big companies. It is this that should actually be the aspect urging the need for agrarian reform", said Arsyad.

The government on the other hand, according to Arsyad, is in fact equivocating about fighting for the interests of rural communities like farmers by increasing the price of fuel (BBM) so that the subsidies can be shifted to farmers. Yet, Arsyad continued, if the government is really serious about helping farmers, all it needs to do is complete the agrarian reform program such as redistributing abandoned land to farmers.

In a situation where a proletarianisation of rural communities is taking place, agrarian conflicts, said Arsyad, will continue to occur. "The number of conflicts will increase and will certainly be bloody", he said. Arsyad gave the example of the most recent agrarian conflicts that invariably result in the loss of life such as those in Mesuji in Lampung and South Sumatra.

Moreover, just last Thursday a clash broke out between local people and company employees that was triggered by the issue of land control in Sei Mati, Medan Labuhan sub-district, Medan, North Sumatra, which resulted in the death of one person.

The chairperson of the Nusantara Fishers and Farmers Association (Astanu), Lukman Hakim, also said that a process of proletarianisation and agricultural involution is taking place in Indonesia. According to Hakim, the amount of land controlled by framers is progressively shrinking. "The current situation is that the amount of land is progressively shrinking, while farmers' need [for land] is steadily growing", said Hakim.

In the same vein as Arsyad, Astanu together with the Islamic mass organisation Nahdlatul Ulama is urging the government to immediately carry out agrarian reform in order to solve these problems.

During the land dispute in Medan Labuhan, local people clashed with employees from geo-thermal electricity operator Magma Nusantara Limited (MNL), which claimed ownership over 315 hectares of land. The local community however also made a claim over a part of this land. This was related by public information bureau chief Police Brigadier General M. Taufik in Jakarta yesterday.

As a consequence of the clash, which took place on Thursday at 5.30pm, one person was killed and eight people injured. The case is now being handled by the Labuhan district police.

According to Arsyad, aside from the fact that legislative mandates and a People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) decree already exist, steps towards agrarian reform such as the redistribution of land to farmers could easily be undertaken by the government.

"[Such as] the redistribution of land owned by [the state-owned forestry company] Perhutani in Java, large plantation lands outside of Java could also be [redistributed]. In addition to this, the government could also start moving villages out of forest areas. That would be the easiest agenda for agrarian reform and a solution to resolve conflicts", he said.

Rather than the government facing public opposition to policies such as fuel price increases, said Arsyad, it would be easier for the government to help farmers realise agrarian reform. (BIL/FER)

[Proletarisasi di Pedesaan Terjadi - Kompas. Sabtu, 14 April 2012. Translated by James Balowski.]

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