Singur and SEZ stuff

So, have you been following the action around hundreds of SEZs sprouting up around the nation? I bet most hadn’t taken a second look till the mess at Singur hit headlines few weeks in a row.

Singur story has all the media worthy masala. Though the double-faced politics being played there (BJP and Mamta preaching communism to CPI-M, wow! Politics is really the art of impossible) is very tempting, I wont give you the regular news channel brainwash here.

After reading and hearing around about so called government-sponsored land-grabbing at Singur and elsewhere (near Pune, Bangalore very recently), and without going into the politics and ideologies, I have two thoughts to share.

One. Imagine our country to be a stock like Infosys. And say you know (as insider, or whatever) the next few years are going to be great for the company. How would you react if someone just forced you to sell your shares today? Okay, I know that Right to property ceased to be a fundamental right in 1978. But why is it that state governments must “buy” the farmers out of their lands? Why can’t the land-owners be made shareholders in the growth that their land will see once converted to SEZ? Why not structure the SEZs to pay long term dividends to those who buy “shares” in it via their lands?

Two. From what I have read, when governments acquire land, the focus more-or-less is on compensating the owners. If you have ever been to a village, you’d know that owners form a minority percentage of the folks who derive their livelihood from cultivable lands. How about these ‘land-less’ workers, where do they go? How about providing them training and employment guarantees in the SEZs that consume their workplace?

We all want “inclusive” growth. Looks to me that SEZ story (a good one BTW) needs to be tuned a bit to make sure inclusive growth happens from the very start of these projects.

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8 Responses

  1. I am shocked about right to property is not the fundamental right. I dont know if it was so, why the real estate shares are booming.

    Well state governments are buying the farmers out of their lands – So the farmer gets his price wont he ? Well the farmers can invest in the stocks with the money. Maybe real estate shares are better nowadays.

    Well the goverment gave the land to the farmer for cultivation, remember before it was farmland it was lush green tropical forest.

  2. You are right. One has to be sensitive to the people who get displaced- it is their livelihood after all. As it is there is a gap between urban and rual area-strange coincidence but my latest post also talks about this.

  3. TATA’s will convert the area into a very developed one, and they have done that umpteen times wherever they have been. (See Jamshedpur.)

    Nevertheless, at least as per the CPI(M) folks more than 80% of the farmers more than happily sold their lands, which was about Rs 12 lacs per acre i guess, way above what its been for others around the country. This they quoted on CNN-IBN debate on tv.

    Nevertheless, the idea of getting farmers participate in this growth is a very good one. And at one level is happened and happening – good compensation (assuming its good), and then some training for locals – as per CPI(M) again, several locals have been registered already to do catering, and that kind of things, and there is training beginning on that. The thing is – these are good ideas if done honestly.

    And to argue from the other side (compared to most arguments one may see) – its time india came out of Agricuture Economy dependence and find ways to employ people in other industries too. Too much of Jai Kisan.. will not help the Kisan’s and the country too. The next round of Jai Kisan needs to be on the lines of what Reliance is doing in Punjab – contracting out vegetable/fruit growth, and giving assured money at very good prices, to scores of farmers who have adjacent lands.

  4. Scarlet, in theory yes. Farmers can invest the money they get. But that way of “involving” them in growth is too hard to explain. Mamatas and others will make the job even tougher.

    Thanks Hiren. That gap has to be worked on now. Or else we cant have ‘peace’.

    AKD, contract farming seems like one way of lifting up our Agri economy. That way you bring in technology and connect farmers better to the market. a few guys are doing this, Reliance as you said, and I think Bharti and ITC too are into it.

  5. Mr/Ms. Silkboard,

    Your thoughts were good, here are the response to these thoughts.

    The problem of Singur is not about compensating the owners of the land. The problem is how to compensate the share cropper of Singur who do not have any legal documents about the ownership on the land on which they work. (It should be noted that the tenant law of India(which is the main reason to have a slum of Dharavi in Mumbai) is not applicable for the sharecroppers.) The political parties are against the project because they claim that the share croppers are not compensated. In fact 80% of the landowners have willingly given up there land because the compensation package which was given by the state government was above the market price.

    So, by given stock holding of the Tatamotors to the landowners will not address the issue. The address the issue one should give stock holding to the share croppers. But it the government can identify the share cropper then they can be compensated on the first place the issue wouldnot have arised.

    Regarding, Tata is training the people (who have lost there land in Singur) in catering and other jobs which will be used in the plant.

  6. Cosmos_raga, I read that too. Basically, a lot of people who depend on farm-land are not really owners. But you can’t just dole things out for free. Training them for newer jobs and offering part of compensation to them may be the thing.

    Frankly, I don’t know the perfect thing here. There is no way you can find 1000 acres of land and not displace farmers. If you like the idea of SEZs, you have to accept some farmers will get displaced. So figure a good way of doing it, something that send ‘anti-rural’ message in any way.

    But, taking a step back, one could argue that SEZ by itself isn’t the best idea. Its like government raising its hands up and saying hey, we can’t build the infrastructure of sort you all want. So let me give you some land, go build your own oasis of infrastructure.

    You can say govt is being realistic that way. Or you can say govt is getting away easy on the poor-infrastructure count here. Which one is it? You tell me.

  7. Why dont they pick some desert land or surface of the sea to setup an SEZ ?

  8. After some years, IT people will be looked as rivals to farmers.. stone pelting etc., ..

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