Monday, March 26, 2007

My letter to Baijayanta Panda MP...on reading his article.

Thanks for the very persuasive and interesting article. Two points you have made with which I very much agree are:
1. Your suggestion of: "dictating a major revamp of land acquisition policies. Because it will be hard to get farmers in lush, irrigated lands ..,, to be evicted even if the government persists with the line that theirs is sub-optimal "single crop" farmland. ,,, without first having a concrete and lucrative alternative in hand, including retraining and jobs, not just cash compensation."
2. Not using police.. or using police with patience.

It is clear that Nabin babu has learnt from his earlier traumatic experiences in Kashipur and Lanjigarh.

However you have not touched two points which needed to be mentioned to make it more factual and useful.

1. BJD is no cadre based party, so Navin babu could have only used lumpen because they don't have any cadres - the luxury that WB, CM had, and has misused.

2. The fact that land records are out dated and need to be updated before area is targeted for acquisition, more in detail, rather than indirectly in the last paragraph. Technology use to update land records is very necessary.

The contradiction that CPM is opposing the very SEZs they are implementing in West Bengal, and using of the same age old method - while using different rhetoric. Consequently their natural allies are up in arms and finally because they have used same decrepit way of dealing with dissent. A sad let down for the now active and vociferous(??) civil society of India. I personally thought CPM would do it differently and set a gold standard for R& R. They initially showed signs of meeting this expectation, when they accepted the right to compensation, of share croppers in addition to the land title holders.

Lastly, and though it is a digression from the issue you have handled so nicely, I am compelled to mention some questions that need to be addressed by the decision making authorities. A a lot more transparency of terms in MOU and the contracts would be highly desirable. Some unanswered questions going around are:

1. Why should Orissa give away Iron Ore at $0.57 cents while world price is $84.10 and rising? I have calculated that for each 1 million tonne plant give away is $350 million per year only for Iron Ore. You add subsidy of free water, coal, infrastructure etc and the numbers get astronomical.
2. And the icing on the top of cake is the SEZ status. Why should you give it for a steel plant?
3. Why should the state give free land, when they are coming to Orissa because other sources have started charging market price?
4. Why TATA land in Gopalpur is not being taken back, as an example to other potential defaulters?
5. Why can't they form a cartel like the OPEC between the 3 state Governments - Jharkhand, 36 Garh and Orissa to get market price and more for iron Ore.
6. Why there are no escalation clauses in the MOUs or are there? International market price has gone up from $34 to $84 in last 4 years.
7. Why and how the externals are going to be taken care of?
8. Why with India(Orissa)'s high density of population is not being considered when companies are asking for land or being allotted land? Why can't the company town idea let go? And the residential high rises left to the local developers? Why incoming companies are not asked to grow vertically rather than creating more Tatanagars or Rourkelas, for which there is no land? After all India has 14 times more land to population ratio as United states.
9. Additionally, I really don't understand why the modern plants which need very few men and operators to operate, are demanding more land not less? For example I could never understand why TATAs demanded and got 3 times more land, than Maruti Udyog producing 3 times more vehicles. That too 30 years later? Are they into profiteering in land - knowing they will get it free?
10. Why is a criminal claim of 10 thousand acres of for an University, even being discussed? Even at 5 lakhs per acre it is upfront give away of 500 crores by GOO which is not flush in money anyway? Can't they build vertically rather than horizontally?

Thanking you again for excellent articulation of Govt of Orissa's and your parties' stand, and making some very good points. I like to again inform you that I highly appreciate your idea of "Pre-poning"/ upfronting the R & R issues rather than "Postponing" them, to the end. That way the embarrassment of RSP's land acquisition being not complete after 50 years wont be there.

Non-violence vs. Violence, what is right?

Non-violence vs. violence, is a very important as well as old issue, and my opinion I have jotted down in many places.
I dislike both state and activist, violence. You cant include one in your equation and exclude the other. And I think it is a hypocrisy to accept one and not the other. They are mirror image of each other.

I am thus against death sentence.

Late Nabakrusna Choudhury and Malati Choudhury, were life long Gandhian and fully aware of both sides of the debate. They always told that this is a political problem and not a law and order problem. However when you don't handle it politically it goes out of hand because most people don't have the luxury of debating it, in an intellectual and indifferent manner, and the state has the responsibility here of defining the parameters and boundaries. Activist violence (or Naxalite violence for that matter,) is based on objective situation. For example two days back there was a news item - I wish I had saved the link - from Maharashtra. The PMs had recently gone there and declared a package to avert suicide of farmers. There was a stipulation in there to pay out Rs. 5000 per farmer- as emergency relief. The babus however are demanding a bribe of Rs. 2000 up front for disbursement of this money. Now the question is who will punish them? No doubt Chandra Babu Naidu did bite the dust for similar situation in AP - but were the bureaucrats responsible for 5000 suicides in AP penalised in any way? Now what would you do, if you were the kid of one, who has thus committed suicide? And you have seen this wrong policy being perpetrated year, after year, after year? Some one pays with his life and some one else enjoys. Political violence is a risky game. Stakes are very high and thus only highly committed and convinced people can take that path. It is not for the faint hearted, for sure. There is no assured light at the end of the tunnel. NO GADDI or Governorship, is assured either.

One of my pet theory is that Gandhi's greatest contribution is the tactical lowering of the height of the hurdle. By bringing in nonviolence he expanded participation in freedom movement many fold and thus made India ungovernable for the British.
In business terms, by his tactics Gandhi made the return on on British colonial investment negative and thus they got out.

That is why I admire Gandhi:

That is why I crave for the expansion of the civil society, and I was one of the most disappointed persons when AP Govt broke off with the AP Naxalites at the behest of their Police / bureaucracy.
I remember even such eminent socialists, and later environmentalist like Late Banka Behari Das, stating that being a minister he can't go against interest of the Govt. (though it conflicts with the interest of the people ).

This is such an important issue that we have to think out of the Box.

The colonial mind set is still prevalent in India, largely. Why else can't they get rid of the oppressive laws in Manipur etc and make it linger indefinitely? How can a Govt. provide it's Military with a legal cover to rape it's own citizen, and get away with impunity? Do you think we have a right to judge those people, who under those circumstances take law in to their own hands, and become violent, after 50 long years? I think the situation is better and but not much better / different in Malkangiri or Chitrokonda( or greater KBK area). Tell me why else such a movement survived for 40 years? Lot of leadership / activist were killed or jailed and many have left the field just because they have become old. Yes, those who were 25 year old have become 65 years - if they survived the OMP action all these years. The intensity has only increased & not decreased, and so have their numbers and area of influence. It has not reduced over all these years. Ministers are even afraid of going to districts for flag hoisting. Does not it tell you something, about the of objective conditions?

Because of her celebrity status Ms. Arundhuti Roy is bringing the information and issues to the fore. But why should we grudge it? We have not banned Cine stars from participating in Election rallies. Actually couple of them are MPs, one couple continue as such even after filing false affidavit with the election commission about their marital status.

Let me tell you one fact to bring to you the dimensions of frustration of many interested in improvement of secondary education. For each 1 million tonne steel plant GOO gives a subsidy per year of 1500 crores only on iron Ore, a resource lost for ever. Yet 40 thousand school teacher posts are vacant today which will cost 200 / 250 crores/year which will make states' foundation of secondary education strong. Of course teaches have to teach but how can you ask them to if they are not there?
And you have heard already about the scandal about old colleges like Bikram Deb College Jeypore having only one Math professors for years. And the status of 3 old Universities of the state 50+-10 years old.

Again it seems I am digressing far but how can you make people non-violent without making them aware of the issues of the debate and hence part of a civil society? How can you ignore their minimum demands and then expect them to remain docile? I put you the same questions I wrote in my appeal to PM, for an IIT in Orissa (actually I like him very much for his honesty and simplicity of living). How do you encourage non-violent behavior by ignoring such protests - and I think that it what Ms. Roy is arguing per my understanding of the interview.

The enemy no longer is recognizable by the color of their skin, which in Gandhi's time was the case.