SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
M A I L B A G

Economic or exploitation zones?

The two articles, “Special Real Estate Zones” by A.J. Philip (April 2) and “SEZ is where truth collide” by Pran Chopra (March 31) make interesting reading when read together. The Chopra thesis is that industrialists under the SEZ Act should be persuaded to shift to other occupations because land is no longer fit for profitable agriculture. This question needs a simple approach to the vexed problem of giving thrust to the “export-led growth model”.

According to the NSSO survey, 40 per cent farmers want to give up farming because agriculture is a losing enterprise but still they oppose land acquisition for the benefit of industrial bigwigs. Mr Philip has cogently explained this thus: “It is a gross misuse of the power when land is forcibly acquired from the farmers so that private investors can prosper. Secondly, SEZ has the potential to become a thriving real estate business”.

As farming is a way a life in the country, the farmers and the agriculture labour have skills to undertake only agriculture and similar activities. They or their offspring cannot be absorbed in the capital-intensive and modern enterprises in the SEZ.


 

The SEZ policy is anti-farmer and anti-farm labour because it does not take care of the masses but the industrial and political elite. It has to be rolled back. Land acquisition for industrialisation should be left to market forces with minimal intervention by the state as facilitator. SEZ should be allowed only on barren land and in backward regions while providing alternative occupations to the farmers and agriculture labour.

Dr PREM SINGH DAHIYA, President, Centre for Dev. & Agri Research, Rohtak

II

The SEZ has indeed been turned into “special exploitation zones” by the Centre and the states. Punjab, “India’s food bowl”, is embroiled in party politics by the Centre on the sharing of water resources. The SEZ’s primary aim is to corner funds. Who cares about the damage to the state’s agricultural capacity, the displacement of landowners and others?

The government looks the other way when it comes to surplus holdings which account for four to six times more than the land under plough. Farmers cannot switch over to other modes off the cuff. It takes generations to adopt new models.

The Centre must plan to provide land from the surplus land holdings through reasonable compensation and providing and operating of infrastructure in such zones should be the responsibility of interested parties.

Lt-Col CHANAN SINGH DHILLON (retd), Ludhiana

III

I endorse Mr Philip’s thesis that SEZs will actually help developers who will get huge tax concessions by utilising the state’s services. The losers will be farmers, agricultural labourers, the government and workers. I agree that India achieved the highest economic growth rate without establishing SEZs.

The issue raises a volley of questions. Where will the farmers go after selling their land to government under pressure? What about the sharecroppers and agricultural labourers who will lose their jobs? Will they get any compensation? Won’t SEZs create regional imbalances? Will the profitable industrial units be also allowed to shift into SEZs? What about the unutilised acquired land? Will it be sold by converting into real estate? What will happen to national food security if thousands of acres of land are acquired for SEZs?

What will happen to those displaced from the acquired areas? Will the government follow the principles of “free-market” when it forces the farmers to sell their land without any “free-choice”? Why can’t the government allow farmers to sell land directly to developers? Why can’t it make the affected farmers shareholders in the projects?

SUDESH KUMAR SHARMA, Kapurthala

Let search panels appoint VCs

Former Vice-Chancellor S.S. Johl’s excellent article, “VC’s as pawns” (Perspective, April 8), shows how the political bosses destroy with impunity the autonomous character of educational institutions.

A VC appointed by one regime is sacked by the next regime. This has become too common, if not an occupational disease, in North Indian state universities. To mitigate this sinister practice, Johl suggests a search committee for selecting eminent VCs. We know how search committees are appointed and how its members bow to political dictates. The following steps may help check the arbitrary functioning of universities:

We look upon the Governor-Chancellor for preventing political intervention in universities. Let the university executive councils be made free from official control. The university teachers should act not as sleepy partners in running the universities but assert themselves to safeguard their autonomy. The media should expose the high-handedness of political bosses whenever they try to intervene in university affairs. The university and its members are also accountable for their functioning to the Governor-Chancellor and public opinion.

Prof V.N. DATTA, New Delhi

 

 


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