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?


Anonymous said...

The conscience claim of the Tatas is interesting, look at this.

"Amnesty International is gravely concerned by reports of excessive use of force by police officials during a protest, on 2 January 2006, by indigenous people (adivasis) at Kalinga Nagar in Jajpur district, Orissa. At least twelve adivasis, including three women and a 12-year-old boy, were reportedly killed in the police firing and one policeman was reportedly killed by the adivasis.

Reports have suggested that hundreds of adivasis from Gobarghati, Nuagaon and Chandia villages had gathered at approximately 11am on 2 January 2006 upon hearing that construction was to begin that morning at the site of the Tata Steel project. The adivasis had been protesting for some months against the plant construction and had raised concerns that they had received inadequate financial compensation for the land acquired from them by the Orissa government to allow construction of the six million tonne capacity project.

more here

The Tatas are no more the company that it used to be.

- Abhijit

Anonymous said...

It is a treat to watch the childlike pride and excitement in the eyes of the current Chief Minister of West Bengal announcing the sale of another thousand acres of land to another exotic group for a project that has numbers (for the press release) in the thousands of crores. For projects that dont seem to have any hard business relevance as of today.

He is helpfully surrounded by an army of seasoned corrupt communist hands. And the major bengali media house in tow.

He is the archetype "Bengali Bhadrolok" complete with passion for films and other arts. So like a good bhadrolok, after the films have been watched and all has been lost, he turns to selling ancestral property.

He likes to be compared in the backdrop of his predecessor - the anal retentive, luddite who turned away all "real" industry through militant trade unionism that was populist initially. The consequence was unavoidable.

He is being described as a darling of the industrialists as they pet his head and get what they want, which is land at subsidised prices robbed from farmers. This land - the most fertile and productive in all of India.

rama said...

Hullo! Thanks for your frank comments, which captures well how a thinking person feels living in the state of West Bengal (which is not in a fit state at all). It is up to the people of West Bengal, and especially its educated, socio-economically privileged section to play their vital role in safeguarding democracy and concern for the toiling poor. Best, rama