Thursday, October 12, 2006
Singur: fundamental questions
The fundamental question that needs to be raised is this: why should the state govt acquire land for a private company, and give it to them at concessional rates? Why can't the company buy the land directly, at market rates?
The Tatas have apparently threatened to withdraw and seek land elsewhere, in other states, where they have apparently received offers. This too raises the fundamental question: if the company is in business, why is it seeking special privileges from state govts? Is it sound corporate citizenship to play off one against the other, seeking company privileges at the expense of the public?
Does any state govt have any right to make special deals with a private company? Are there any kickbacks involved that they are so eager to help out? Why can't the details of the proposed project be made transparent? Why can't all the benefits to the state that are supposed to come from this project be made public? What are the compelling reasons for providing land at concessional rates? Why can't public hearings be held? Do the people of a state have a right to know what their govt is up to?
The Tatas like to claim that they are a company with a social conscience. But none of that is evident in their conduct regarding Singur. As a company they will try to get the best deal. But are they not citizens of India? Hence aren't the interests of the public also their interests? And if there's a clash of interest - between citizens' rights and company interests - what would they decide?