There is probably no doubt that only industrialization can bring fast progress and advancement to a country. Though there are many believers of “Industrialization is against human values” still exist in this society, it is time that the Indian government and its various structures take a proactive stand supporting industrialization (off course with considering damages and loss to citizens). For a fast growing economy like that of India, fast industrialization is a must. But the acts of Union Forest Minister Mr. Jairam Ramesh create doubts in the minds both of the citizens and that of the investors; the recent act being the ban on mining in Niyamgiri, Orissa for Vedanta’s $7 billion project on the grounds of violation of environmental laws. While every state of India face problems during land acquisition for industries, such accusations of violation are disturbing. Why is it a problem to set up an industry in India? It’s time we discuss them.
Considering Orissa’s case, we find some tall promises for future when we look at the long list of companies that have signed MoUs with the state government. Total amount of proposed investment is Rs 600,000. While Gujarat has become the most investor friendly state of India, all other state has failed to create an environment conducive for industries. What do we lack? I think it’s the balance between the industries (investors), people who will get affected (land owners) and the environmental laws. But the question is if there can be a ground for congruence between these factors!
The popular perception about investors is that they don’t face any problem while setting up an industry as they have lots of money and that’s why they should compensate the affected people as per market price. Let’s get some clearer idea about the constraints that the Industries face. Considering the high value of lands these days, is it possible for a company to buy thousands of acres of land at the market price? In fact, when an industry is declared to be established in an area, the market price too increases. Then add the secret amount that business enterprises pay to the local decision makers to get all clearances and facilities in a smooth way and you will see how difficult it is for a company to set up a plant. As they want to do business, we can’t expect them to run non-profit organizations here. Shouldn’t the govt. think rationally and help an ‘outsider’ company to start its business at a place which is suitable for it?
Now let’s discuss the factor of environment and plight of land owners. First the case of land acquisition. This problem is not that big as it is perceived. Actually it grows due to initial inaction of the govt. With absolutely magnificent rehabilitation programmes launched by the govt. and the private companies, there shouldn’t have been any problem for land owners to leave their land except for some genuine causes like the lands being highly fertile. The govt. /companies are ready to compensate people even for the govt. land they have encroached on. But thanks to opportunistic politics and even Maoist fomentation trigger violent war like situations. What helps these leaders is the lack of awareness among the locals as well as the poor records of govt.s in rehabilitation programmes. In Orissa, only around 15,000 acres of land of the estimated 45,607 acres of land required for investments have been acquired. In case of POSCO, govt. faced problems while acquiring its own land (3500 acres out of total 4004 acres land for POSCO) which have been encroached since ages.
Environment is a more genuine reason to oppose installing a plant. At a time when global warming is the biggest problem in front of the human civilization, we can’t afford to destroy natural flora and fauna. There should be absolutely zero tolerance towards violation of environmental laws. Having said that, what needs to be ensured is that the damage is estimated properly and the true estimation is publicized. It can be done by none other than the govt. itself.
The balance between the 3 factors of industrialization can be established by the govt. only. The govt. here means both the central as well as the state govt. When it comes to industrial enterprises,they need to think alike irrespective of which party is in power at the center or the state. The laws should be clearly laid and interpreted. Today parties interpret the laws according to their advantage. This creates doubt. Due to this reason the companies act surreptitiously and country looses the revenues it deserves from the business. We want leaders to speak in one voice – no matter if that voice is positive or negative. The leadership has to be stubborn when it comes to upholding laws of the land. Government needs to take the utmost care while deciding the area where the plant is to be set up. “No fertile land and least private land” should be provided to the investors. If all parties can stand united for or against a plant, there can be no one/party politicizing the land acquisition issue. As written before, zero tolerance towards environmental damage should be the approach making sure that the damages are estimated fairly. As it is highly improbable to expect politicians to talk in one voice and not politicizing the issue, a centrally empowered committee can be formed to check all the heavy industry proposals. The committee should have representation from all political parties, selected environmentalists and representatives of the people to be affected in a project. In a country of committees, we can adjust one more committee for sure.
The key to the balance lies with the political leadership of the country. If they want to use it, we can see a peaceful and industrialized India. And if they don’t want to use the key, it is our duty to force them to. After all, the supreme power in this country lies with us, the people of India. Hope we haven’t forget this fact.