Some recent or ongoing events in Gurgaon and the Nation - like the Land Acquistion Bill, the PM’s Indian Ocean visit and the bail given to 79 ex-Maruti workers – have prompted this piece.
FG has commented on and/or featured them in earlier Editorials and Cover Stories.
Your Land, My Land (Editorial in Vol. 1, No. 5: September 23-29, 2011)
This land is your land, this land is my land… this land was made for you and me. These lines from a wonderful old American song are very appropriate for our land acquisition and compensation policy. Why is someone else’s land acquisition just a commercial deal, a matter of national progress and urbanisation, while our own land is our birthright and our constitutional right. In India, over decades there has been very little squabble over land acquisition that was for clear public purpose. There is acrimony when it seems that private purpose is being served; in these circumstnaces, the land owner rightfully feels less obligated to part with his land, or expects a far higher compensation. The proposed policy’s basic assumption—that land acquisition is primarily a matter of deciding on compensation, in some form - needs to be challenged. It does not seem to recognise the angst and the violent agitations that have taken place against self-serving land acquisition.
Land, to different people and families, in different parts of India, at different times, would have different significance. There are some who would happily part with their land for a good compensation, and treat this as an opportunity to make their lives better. There are others for whom this (land) is the only constant, their security blanket. Nothing would make them move, or sell. We need to recognise, and accept, both. So there should never (except for clear overriding public interest) be a situation wherein a person is forced to sell, if he/she does not wish to. Too much is made of industry requiring a particular piece of land/location. What industry needs most is transparency and consistency, and ‘independence’. And the cost of land, for most projects (except real estate) is hardly a worthwhile percentage of the project cost. The pioneers of industry in India set up manufacturing bases in many remote parts of the country, for decades. States like Gujarat led the move, with industrial growth centres promoted by GIIC and GSFC, starting with Vapi. Maharashtra followed instantly, with multiple centres promoted by SICOM. What made the industrialists willing to move in those times was a planned growth centre strategy, where basic industrial and social infrastructure was provided by the State. Today that infrastructure would of course include telecom/Net connectivity. There is enough land area in our country, and there is enough diversity within industry to entice a particular type to location A and another to location B. Indian entrepreneurs should be prepared to play anywhere in India (if not globally), and not only in their backyard. Apni gali mein toh… They would and should find their own answers - provided the cost and constraints are known up front, and there is transparency and consistency right through. It is also pertinent for some service sectors to introspect. They ask for prime real estate, when actually bigger towns/cities are clearly becoming the ‘wrong choice’ commercially. Even the service sector should think of remote location operations - as long as basic ‘service’ (IT, telecom, English-speaking manpower) and social infrastructure is available. Coming finally to land for developing real estate, for urbanisation. This is clearly the biggest scam. Politicians, the bureaucracy and the government clearly do not want to give this up. They have obligingly offered higher compensation for this - ‘we will pay 4 times instead of double’ - knowing well that even that will leave millions for the interested parties. The colonial masters threw us natives peanuts; our elected masters throw us cashew nuts. This has to stop.
To conclude therefore, let us stop this sham of industrialisation or urbanisation requiring people to give up their land for a national cause. Instead of any Policy, what is needed is government action - in setting up remote industrial growth areas, and/or providing sufficient incentives in those areas. Any project in urban areas or suburbs should be left entirely to private enterprise to resolve; the government has no role here, other than to protect the landowners. Those inclined to sell will readily accept; those who do not, need to be left alone.
This land was made for you and me.