Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hostile Takeover

Demand and supply. My knowledge of economics is near to negligible. So what I mean by demand and supply is that in this hungry world of ours there is always a need for more. We personally are never satisfied so therefore even on a large scale we can see this phenomenon. We need gas, more steel, nuclear energy, shopping malls, apartment buildings, dams, electricity etc etc. And the common ingredient? For all these things we need Land. There is demand and so there are people and companies clamouring to supply and in this process mint lots of money.

The land grabbing may be to build a shopping mall in place of a slum or a flyover or a new swanky building or when it comes to land grabbing outside the metros its far more lucrative and dangerous.

POSCO Steel Plant: This is the latest in our little land grabbing story. Where is this one happening then? Villages of Dhinkia and Gobindpur in Jagatsinghpur District of Odisha (Orissa) state. These people have been fighting since 2005 to protect their lands. There has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding this issue with Jairam Ramesh doddering around the centre of it. Various environmental and forest clearances that were given to this project came under the hammer. When Ramesh put up a committee to look into it they came back with the confirmation that the clearances were secured falsely. But what does Ramesh do instead of slashing the project and charging the people involved he approves the forest and environment clearances and puts his “faith and trust” in the Orissa governments confirmation that the people will be well taken care and provided for. This was done in spite of getting a resolution from the Gram Panchayat of the area which protested against the project.

Nandigram: Company behind it? Indonesian based Salim Group. The basics of the whole thing was that Buddhadebs government planned to take over 10,000 acres of land for the creation of an SEZ where a chemical hub would be set up by the aforementioned company. People reacted against it. Result? Violence and confusion which in turn resulted in more violence and deaths. My knowledge over the whole debacle is very very limited so I would suggest anybody who is reading this and wishes to know more to well, Google it.

Jaitapur Nuclear Plant: What problem here? Well after what happened in Japan I’m sure everyone knows what can go wrong with nuclear stations. The area is apparently quite delicate ecologically, the plant will displace nearly 40,000 people, disrupt the water flow of the Krishna and Godavari river and most importantly and the biggest reason for concern is the fact that the plant will be based on European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) which has not been approved anywhere including France where it was designed by the Company Areva. Also, I nearly forgot, it is also an earthquake prone area. I wouldn’t want a nuclear reactor in my backyard now, would you?

But nevertheless in an effort to be objective the energy from the plant will be sustainable and with reduced carbon emissions.

But then again I think to myself why can’t they just develop solar energy?

Bhatta-Parsaul: This took place in the greater Noida region. Problem? Farmers were again short changed and did not receive proper compensation. Then what happens? Rahul Gandhi lands on the scene, it becomes a big political circus where everybody takes a chance to hit at Mayawati not that she doesn’t deserve it. My problem with it is the politicians only seem to be there so they can topple the Mayawati government in the coming elections and not for the farmers. It’s all power and money here. And what else happened there? The police beat up the villagers. There are allegations of rape. According to me, all the politicians who were dancing there in the name of support to the farmers were just paving their way to electoral gains through positive media time. The Yamuna Expressway is to be built by the Jaypee Group, just thought you would like to know.

Singur: What is the situation? Let’s see. Tatas were going to build a Nano Plant. Massive agitation. They had to leave. But as it seems the land has been left uncultivable because of Fly ash. There were and are two types of farmers: The ‘willing’ and the ‘Unwilling’. Tatas were given 1000 acres. And 85% farmers who lost their land were willing, as in, they agreed to give it to the Tatas on the hopes of getting jobs at the plant. Of course they sold their land for around 9-12 lakh an acre whereas the market price is actually around 60 lakhs. Obviously they feel cheated. Now the unwilling who didn’t want to give the land are stuck with one that can’t even be cultivated. Mamata Bannerjee who paved her way back into the spotlight by massive protests against the plant has now made statements where she welcomes the Tata group to come back and they can have 600 acres of land. Anyway, in short, the main issue of contention was that the farmers were not given the lands worth and the new housing facilities that they were to be offered were delayed and not ready.

Now my two cents would go with Industrial development in that area. And why you may ask? Well, since the land has already been left unfit for cultivation I see no other means of livelihood unless the people responsible can fix the wrong they did.

There are other such agitations against land grabbing in Raigarh and Niyamgiri (on which I wrote about some time back). And I’m also quite sure there many other such agitations going that we still have no idea about.

There are lots of things wrong in our country. Most of us on the internet are pretty oblivious to it because of our sheltered lives. It’s always the poor, the uneducated or our farmer who is always haggled.

This land acquisition issue is just another hay in the haystack. This year has been an eye opener for many of us. We always knew that our politicians were corrupt. But now we finally have proof. Everywhere government machinery has bad apples from officials at the passport office to TC's in the train -- Corrupt. But corruption is not the topic of discussion but somehow it’s the reason many of these things are happening. Corruption, Power and Money a never-ending circle.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand the main reason why our politicians are able to do what they are doing is because of the 'Land Acquisition Act of 1894' which allows the government to acquire land from individual owners for public purpose after paying a government fixed compensation to these people. The Act was done up in 1894 and so obviously the British made it then for their own selfish purposes even though, changes have been made to the act it’s still putty in the hands of the government, its weak and useless and all it does is lengthen the constitution.

And of course, there is already a new Land Acquisition bill, but there are many roadblocks to this new bill, the bill in its final draft has made it clear that the current bill will have no “primacy” over 16 other central laws, such as that, land acquisition under the Atomic Energy Act,1962; the Land Acquisition (Mines) Act, 1885; the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of Uses in Land) Act, 1962; the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005; the Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition and Development Act, 1957; and the Electricity Act, 2003 among others will be exempt from the LARR law. And since, the bill will have no ‘primacy’ over 16 central laws, it renders the bill weak as most of the land conflicts that are fought are over issues such as mining, SEZ and nuclear plants, which all come under the central laws and have the power to override the new bill.

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