Farmers are agitating over their farm lands being taken over by big companies.With the active or passive collusion of the state governments.
India is set to see radical changes in its rural landscape.The new national highways are all already changing the contours of the countryside.Even in Bengal where the current agitations against takeover of the 1,000 odd acres of land for the Tata motors is unrelenting,today you can drive through the Bengal interiors through the well-laid NH expressways,from Kolkatta to Benares,beyond toward all the way to New Delhi.In fact,the NHs in Bengal are well-maintained when compared with even what we see in TN!Yes,already West Bengal is witnessing a radical change.Even within the city,we see new flyovers,the Vidyasgar Sethu is an engineering marvel!
The Secpail Economic Zones(SEZs) is only the latest irritant,one hopes it is just a temporary one at that!
SEZs continue to make news and continue to agitate the minds of everyone.The Centre after a flurry of SEZs everywhere,in Haryana and elsewhere suddenly developed cold foot!There is a lull in the ministers’camp!
The farmers fear the loss of their fertile lands,the companies suddenly see vast wealth at no cost!They look all land grabbers.No minister now talks.There is a dead silence.So,what would come out of all this buzz,this SEzs business?Quick wealth?Fast buck?Or,all empty noise or undercover operation?
This is the public impression and even a deep suspicion.
Where do the governments come in?
The Centre is pretending to be neutral and remains,as on date,cluless!.The states,some managed quietly, others made deals.Even others like the like the W.Bengal government suddenly found itself in an irretrievable ugly reality
Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechchury?Oh,they never imagined they would be called upon to come on stage and face the public wrath! God bless them!
Yes,Mamata Banerjee is wrong,patently.This much we concede.She has no business to unleash violence and create a standstill for a government elected with such a thumping majority with a mandate to industrlaise the state,create jobs.Mamata, you cant wish her away.You cant write her off.She is a fighter.She grabbed the Satyagraha technique,when the Congress was planning a Satyagraha centenary in a big way.Anyway,Satyaghaha caught the public notice thanks to Mamata’s tantrums!Mamata has every right to agitate.Why not? But then she must at least make out a case.Farmers are coerced?Yes and no.Given the CPM politics and ideology ,its past track record,it has really badly injured its reputation and image as a champion of the poor,more so the landless poor and the small farmers.
There is much to caricature the state government,given its claims and even now,it claims to have done much in agriculture.But this is unconvincing.Given its record of economic and social development indicators.
But everyone admires the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government,the man himself has shown some moral courage and grit,he has got his instinct right and everyone knows he is on the right path.
But there are limits in politics,in democratic poltiics,you cant push people beyond a point and also you have to play some poltics of populism,as his counterparts have done in other states.
Mamata is course seems unrelenting.Her case is simple.She alleges the farm lands were taken over forcibly.This is not fully ture,though some might have grievances and reservations.
Now,there are two issues here.
One what is the justification for the SEZs and whether Bengal can follow a different policy in SEZs.
SEZs is a proven concept.You have to have focused development of certain industries and many incentives and concessions are needed to draw investments and in this sense SEZs are justified.
So far 237 SEZs sanctioned,investments of Rs.2,50,000 crores committed.Already notified 63 zones have drawn investments of Rs.59,000 crore.
Projected employment is 30 lakh jobs and it is not a small gain.Also,an annual turnover of Rs.15,00,000 crore is expected,it is likely to contribute 2% of the GDP by 2010Exports from these zones are expected to cross 500 billion dollars by 2015.
What is special about the zones is that they enjoy many tax breaks and also exempted from many regulations.There is an argument whether the loss to the government from these exemptions are compensating to the gains.Mr.Kamalnath,the Commerce Minister is a passionate defender of the zones and his credentials seem to be a plus factor.The opposition to the zones comes from other sources.Farmers are the losers,say some.Yes,farmers are induced or forced to part with fertile lands they had held for generations and the uprooting of such a heritage is not an easy thing.It is too painful.
But given the constraints for vast stretches of land for creating new generation of industries in the long interests of the country needs some hard-headed decisions.Like building the big dams that displace large number of people we need a rehabilitation policy for people displaced from the zones also.
Much more important is the need for a more deeper analysis of the long and short-term issues.Tatas have of course promised jobs for the farmers families who have parted with their lands for the tata morots project.
But this seems not enough.There must be a basic principle of equity in the long-term interests of these families.
Farmers who part with their lands must have an equity stake in the future company or companies.
There are principles of equity and also principles of sound economics.These principles seem over-riding and they have to be incorporated in the new policy package the ministers are contemplating.
Capitalist development at any time is a sensitive issue.Capitalism is a private affair,it ensures profits for the private person who turns an entrepreneur.Capitalism always had had a bad history.It is exploitation in the most substantial sense of the word.The capitalist is for making profits at the cost of the larger society.More so when he takes away the lands or when any state goernment enables such a take over.
So,we need to study the issue of compensation in more than one sense.Not the present market price.But the future,long term value the land would acquire once the industry gets going.Consider the history of Reliance itself or the Tatas or all the other enterprises.They have created value for their enterprises in a mind-boggling manner and it is only just and equitable there is a provision for alloting shares in the enterprises to the farmers who play the catalyst role in the first place.
India is a poor country,Indian farmers have been traditionally been an exploited lot and so there is a strong case for given a stake for the farming families.
The other more immediate issue in the cas eof W.Bengal is the nature of the CPM approach to such lands takeover.
Communists are always muddle headed,given their twisted logic and mental stagnation.They dont seem to go beyond even the texts of Marx.Why justify your high-handedness by bringing in socialism or capitalism.Be more pragmatic and be more business-like and sort out your practical issues by sitting across the table.
Now,instead of doing this,the high-minded theoreticians,Benoy Konar,dished out some thesis about the”bourgeois-landlord”state and the”calss struggle”.This is all simple and blatant nonsense and a cruel way of coming to terms with opposition and dissent in a democratic society. We read about the murky nature of the underworld connections with the CPM party functionaries and some names are also mentioned.Though we like to ignore such allegations,it looks that poltiics in the sttes is becoming more and more in the nature of deterioration of law and order and the misuse of power once a party learns to win elections continuously and stays in power.We see such highhandedness in the Southern state of TN and the police is the one dept,may be next the state election machinery which are all misused to settle scrores or enforce party interests.The one bright light is the role of the courts,more so the high courts,we find in some of the latest manifestations the courts go out of their usual restrained language and seem to be taking some courage to speak in a more popular and common man’s language.So,whoever misuses state power have to be restrained,it doesnt matter who they are all.
So,the Calcutta high court may be right in rejecting the state’s resort to 144 in Singue,the Tata morots site,in a more routine manner.144 ,as the common man perceives it,is used for some specific purposes and for the day.Here in Singur,the state has turned the industrial site into a virtual fort with the help of the police force.Such a step has to be restrained and this is what the high court has done.The state must learn to respect dissent and even agitations of the type launched by Ms Banerjee.
May be the CPM functionaries now would learn some new style of conducting the state government’s business.After all,any private sector development is a capitalist development in their jargon.And so let there be some bourgeois approach to resolving disputes and disagreements between the ruling and the Opposition.It is certainly a learning experience of unmatched kind.
Let Bengal prosper in the new century.Let the impoverished rural Bengal countryside see some new industries and enjoy the benefits of non-farm jobs and social progress.
One can trust the Tatas to deliver on such a mission.