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Skewed Development:PVT. SECTOR INITIATIVE CRUCIAL, by Dhurjati Mukherjee,17 June 2010 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 17 June 2010

Skewed Development


By Dhurjati Mukherjee


The IPL imbroglio saw the hyper rich in conjunction with some politicians amassing wealth among themselves in a country where around 37 per cent of the population languishes in poverty and squalor. This obscured the Dantewada massacre -- a significant show of strength by the Maoists who have been fighting for a better deal and a better livelihood for tribals and other backward and impoverished sections of society. While the rich, the industrial class joined by a section of politicians are super powerful in society and corner all facilities and benefits – grabbing land of the poor, availing all types of concessions for their projects and getting involved in corrupt deals directly or indirectly, include evading taxes, the poor are left in the lurch. Only good expressions and intentions are voiced and not translated into practice.


But it is surprising nonetheless that the Prime Minister has thought it prudent to request the private sector “to invest in building trust in the Naxalite-hit districts …. and improving the conditions of the people in the area”.  This is possibly for the first time that Manmohan Singh has directly tried to get industry to join the Centre’s battle for hearts in the rebel zones, specially Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and West Bengal, through the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).


The sincerity of the industrial class in India to help the poor and the backward sections, without expecting any financial gains, is suspect because of their track record. No doubt some industrialists have carried out some benevolent and charitable work for the poor but the size and quantum is indeed quite meagre.


It is indeed insignificant compared to the profits they make and the wealth amassed by them or even the concessions received from the Government (directly or indirectly) for various projects. Even in areas where they carry out massive projects, there have been innumerable cases of starvation, illiteracy and poisoning due to leakages and/or pollution from the factories, jeopardizing health.   


There can be no comparison of the Indian industrial class with say Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, who has donated liberally to far-off India in the health sector and the BMG Foundation has donated one billion dollars of the body’s $ 13.1 billion in grants for global health. In fact, Bill has entered into a partnership with the Bihar government to provide mother and child health services in rural areas, ranging from family planning to improving nutrition and general health standards.


The Indian industrialists are really very much different in attitude and behaviour as their contribution to grass-root development leaves much to be desired. There have been reports of land being forcibly taken away for industrial or other such projects with very little compensation at below market rates and no rehabilitation, throwing the families at the brink of poverty. The government in most cases remained a silent spectator. The intelligentsia did rarely question whose development was taking place when poor people were being evicted without alternative source if livelihood. 


It may be mentioned that mineral production in the country is estimated to be worth over Rs 99,000 crores per annum and the overwhelming majority of the income comes out of the Maoist-hit states. The areas, as is well-known from several surveys and reports, suffer from what economists call “resource curse” – rich in resources but poor in human capital and very low income levels.


But from these areas where mineral production takes place, the extent of impoverishment of the masses is difficult to imagine. The obvious reason is the total neglect of most of these areas for years together, both by the Central and State governments and also by the private sector. Moreover, whatever little Government funds have been made available through its various schemes have been squandered by unscrupulous politicians of the panchayats and sub-divisional/district officials.


Thus, it is quite obvious that recent attempts in these States to set up mining ventures or factories have faced stiff resistance from local tribals who fear being exploited from their homeland without any benefit of development coming to them – directly or indirectly. One may mention here that a study undertaken by Dr. Walter Fernandes found that 60 million persons were forcibly evicted from their land, livelihood and habitat during the period 1947 to 2004 which figure comes to around 70 million till the year 2009. It involved 25 million hectares of land, including seven million hectares of forests and six million hectares on common property resources (CPR). 40 per cent of the displaced and affected comprised the tribals. Even official figures reveal that only 28 per cent of the displaced tribal population has been rehabilitated though in reality the figure is much less.


The unjust pro-rich and pro-urban development process has economically, socially and culturally exploited the poor and the landless in a country which swears by the name of Mahatma Gandhi, who talked of decentralization, grass root rural development and equitable sharing of resources and wealth. It has to be admitted that this has totally been ignored. It is time that the skewed development planning needs to be reversed to make it more rural centred and make villages the engines of growth.


While the Government has to come in a big way by curtailing various privileges and benefits of politicians, bureaucrats and the business community, the latter has to be pressurized to adopt one village each for development which would include providing social infrastructure and some physical infrastructure as well. The plan for this should be chalked out in detail in consultation with the Planning Commission and the industrial and trade bodies.


The Government should ensure that the strategic plan formulated in this regard should specify the initiatives to be undertaken and the time frame for carrying out the work. The amount of money to be spent should be worked out keeping into consideration the concessions received by the industrial houses as also their net profits. If necessary, the Government could also provide some funds for the development work to be undertaken.


Only humble requests by the Prime Minister or other political personalities may not yield the desired results as the character of India’s business community has not been praiseworthy, specially in recent years. It is thus necessary to impose conditionalities on the business community so that they take up development work in the right areas and in the right spirit for mitigating the miseries of the poor, the impoverished and the backward sections of society.  Vague utterances of ‘inclusive’ development and invoking the name of Mahatma Gandhi on and off would sound naïve if his ideas are not translated into reality. --INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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