Saturday, February 24, 2007

A reformer for the poor by Sagarika Ghose

Hindustan Times
A reformer for the poor by Sagarika Ghose
February 15, 2007
Franz Kafka’s play Metamorphosis has haunted West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee since his university days. There are many interpretations of the play, the most popular one being how a salesman wakes up one night to find himself transformed into a ‘monstrous vermin’ or a ‘bug’ or an ‘insect’. Bhattacharjee need not worry about waking up in the morning and finding that he’s become an insect. But perhaps he does need to worry about a different kind of metamorphosis.

From peasant communities to social activists to eminent historians, the coalition of the conscience that once rooted for the Left is now ranged in implacable opposition against Buddha-babu. The state government’s land acquisition in Singur and its plans of an SEZ in Nandigram have shocked CPI(M) supporters. How could a party committed to the poor and the marginalised, a party that initiated Operation Bargha, that so fundamentally empowered the rural poor, now turn against the very poor peasants who have voted for it year after year?

Comrades within the CPI(M) itself are voicing dire warnings against neo-capitalism; the ayatollahs of the Delhi politburo continue to issue fatwas against foreign investment in India; and party apparatchiks themselves are making critical films about Bhattacharjee. The only thing that silences his critics is his mandate. In the 2006 assembly elections, with Brand Buddha and his new industrial policy very much on his campaign agenda, voters rewarded him with a gigantic three-fourths majority, with urban and affluent sections voting for the Left for the first time.

Bhattacharjee now finds himself cast in the role of agent of change, indeed an agent of metamorphosis. What is the best way to secure long-term change and transform a certain type of Bengali psyche that revels in victimhood and forever sees itself in opposition to commerce, in opposition to reform and in opposition to progress? Economists have provided several solutions. First and foremost, the land acquisition policy must be re-thought. Agriculture must first be liberalised. Economic liberalisation is taking place in industry, but it’s not taking place in agriculture. If a villager wants to buy and sell land, it is almost impossible. Converting agricultural land to non-agricultural land is, in many cases, illegal. Land is simply not an economic asset and whatever price the farmer sells his land at, he’s going to be the loser.

The liberalisation of industry, many economists are now saying, cannot take place unless concomitant steps are taken to liberalise agriculture. And this means scrapping land ceiling laws, scrapping land conversion laws and regularising land documents. If ceilings on industry can go, if a Tata or a Reliance can grow in an unlimited way, then why is agriculture still being kept tied to laws that prevent an agriculturalist from growing? If land is the farmer’s only asset, and this asset is going to cost five times more in the years to come, then why would he sell at today’s price?

The struggle for land will continue to be violent and bloody unless the entire legal framework applied to agriculture is changed. Land must be bought from voluntary sellers, and sellers will only sell voluntarily if they know they will be richer as a result. As economists point out, simply handing over compensation is not enough. Lump sums of cash are meaningless and are frittered away. Instead, just as Bhattacharjee is creating a metamorphosis in industry, he must create a metamorphosis in land, so that the West Bengal peasant becomes the father of the industrialisation process and not its step-child.

Second, land acquisition methods must change. Acquisition policies can incorporate the following: first leave homesteads intact, that is, acquire the land, but let the villages remain and avail of the new facilities that industry and the SEZ develops for them, rather like the Lal Dora areas in Delhi. Second, lease land from the villagers instead of buying it outright, so that the villagers become landlords instead of oustees and benefit from the rising rents of the land. Bhattacharjee’s industrial policy is certainly the only hope for West Bengal but the policy itself must be implemented in a manner that befits Buddha-babu. After all, he is a reformer of the poor, not a reformer of the rich. His economic reforms are designed to rescue millions from poverty, not simply contribute to the coffers of industrial houses.

There is another initiative that Buddha-babu must take as he embarks on the transformation of society and mentality in Bengal. Just as Rammohan Roy created the new progressive Bengali in the 19th century through an exciting fusion of Christian thought and Indian tradition, Bhattacharjee has to create a new, homegrown ‘Leftism’, a Leftism of democratic, market-friendly rootedness. How will he do this? Reformist chief ministers generally always lose the people’s confidence. Chandrababu Naidu, SM Krishna and Om Prakash Chautala were all bundled out of office for daring to reform the economy.

Yet, Bhattacharjee has advantages that his other chief ministerial colleagues do not. In West Bengal, the CPI(M) is a formidably well-organised party machine, a system in which in every village, almost everyone, from the postman to the seamstress, is loyal to an entity they call ‘the party’. Bhattacharjee should use this party machine to his advantage and push a ‘New Bengali’ agenda. He should embark on a programme of mass contact, in almost Gandhian style. If the CPI(M) becomes a regional rather than an ideological party, if it transforms itself (invisibly) into a Bengali DMK or Akali Dal, based on identity rather than ideology, then Bhattacharjee might find he has far more room to manoeuvre ideologically.

In short, for the economic agenda to succeed, the Chief Minister must not sing ‘ekla chalo re’. Instead, this is the time to ride out aggressively to meet the people, to encourage a range of new programmes and campaigns centred on a new Bengal and for using the party machine to embark on a whole new era of populism. Sops, subsidies and gifts to voters have never been the CPI(M)’s style. The cadres have ruled more by fear and intimidation than by generosity. But the time of economic reforms is also the time of generosity. It is a time for unleashing reforms across the board, not just in building flyovers and malls, but in the agriculture market, in police stations, in cultural festivals, in the post offices and in the bureaucracy.

The unsmiling, stern apparatchik must stand forth as a large-hearted leader of the people, a Bengali NTR or MGR, a popular hero, a subaltern who wants to make money for the sake of the village and not for the sake of the city, a towering personality who believes in pragmatism. Certain types of reformers are always popular in India, whether a Krishna Chaitanya or a Ramakrish-na Parmahansa — the reformers of the poor. Reforms have to be phrased in the language and idiom of the poor and not in the language of dry CII policy. Bhattacharjee has the votes, he has the mandate, he has the party organisation, he has the personal incorruptibility and now he has the historic moment. He has the opportunity to create a whole new language of economic reform. If he succeeds, Bhattacharjee will be the first Chief Minister to have created economic reforms in the name of the poor. And that will really be a metamorphosis.

The writer is Senior Editor, CNN-IBN

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Singur and Nandigram have forced renewed debate on some of the most burning questions of our time. Shoma Chaudhury travels to the hotspots to trace the roots of unrest and its lessons.

The frontline: A women’s rally in Nandigram protesting against false FIRs and arrests
The first thing you experience when you enter Singur is shock. There are reasons why many critical tensions of our time have come brimming forth in this small agrarian community. When you are there, you understand why. Singur has been in the news for eight months, but nothing in the media has prepared you for the beauty or prosperity of the place. This is not a destitute patch of barren land from which people should want to be evicted for some monetary compensation. Singur is emerald country. Even an urban cynic, unmoved by pastoral idylls, can see in an instant that this is no poor man’s burden. Land here is wealth. Singur is merely 45 kilometres from Kolkata, runs flush along the Durgapur highway, and lies between the Damodar, Hooghly and Kana rivers. Almost every villager’s house here is pucca, a secure shelter of cement and polished red stone. The fields are lush with crop — rice, jute, potato, and a myriad vegetables. And every 500 yards there is a pond swimming with ducks. Beauty never plays a role in the reckonings of macroeconomics. That could be a mistake. Human beings respond to beauty. They defend the things they love. The colour green has meaning in Singur. It lives. It has a weight and texture and smell that is easy to forget in a city. It spells generations of rootedness in land. It spells a self-sufficient way of life that people are willing to fight and die for.

Singur first slipped into the news in May last year. Soon after the Left Front government was sworn into power for the seventh time in a row in West Bengal, the CM, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya announced that Tata Motors was going to set up a car factory in Singur. Bengal has been suffering a stagnant economy for decades. This was to be the proud flagship of a new, aggressively industrialising Bengal. In popular middle-class imagination, the Tata name usually equals progress and growth. But trouble began almost immediately. Rallies, demonstrations, petitions, and then as the government persisted in acquiring the land, escalating tension and violence. September 25 and December 2, 2006, are folkloric dates in Singur. Scores of villagers are still smarting at the memory of the police action, lathi charge, tear gas, rubber bullets and arrests. For us, in our safe enclaves, these words have lost meaning with overuse. Unless one faces the might of the State oneself, one cannot approximate the pain of wood thudding on skin, the searing burn of tear gas. One cannot approximate the fear and anger ordinary people feel on the ground. On September 25, about 7,000 workers led by the Krishi Jami Rakha Committee — a conglomeration of parties, activists, and workers’ groups — had gathered at the Block Development Office to protest anomalies in the disbursal of compensation. In the police action that followed, Rajkumar Bhool, the 24-year-old son of a landless couple, was so badly beaten he collapsed by a pond and died. Several people were injured and 72 activists, including 27 women and a two- and-a-half-year-old girl, were arrested, several under Section 307 of the IPC, that is “attempt to murder.” This incident increased the groundswell of anger. In response, the government clamped Section 144 of the Cr PC on the Singur region. On December 2, flanked by police, as the government began to fence off the acquired land, thousands of people gathered to stop the fencing. They were lathi-charged by the police and the Rapid Action Force (RAF). Women complained of verbal and physical abuse. Sixty villagers were arrested, 18 among them women. All were charged with IPC, Section 307. On December 18, 18-year-old Tapasi Malik’s body was found smouldering in the fields. Since then, Singur has continued to boil, with the government asserting that the Tata Motors small car factory would come up there at any cost.

The colour green has meaning in Singur. It lives. It spells generations of rootedness in land

One might wonder why one should be concerned with local trouble over a small car factory project in a faraway place. In fact, most people in urban India reading about Singur in small news snippets say, “But the farmers are being paid adequate compensation, why don’t they move?” Or as an Indian friend from America put it, even more dismissively, “Oh Singur — that Mamata Banerjee drama!” He could’ve been speaking for almost all of India’s middle-class.

Sitting in Delhi and Bombay and Bangalore, it is difficult to imagine what’s going on in these places. But Singur, and much more powerfully, Nandigram, the other seething faultline in Bengal, are not just about “adequate compensation” and competitive party politics. They are white hot samples — symptoms — of what’s happening in every corner of India. Raigad, Kalinganagar, Dadri, Kalahandi, Kakinada, Aurangabad, Bijapur, Chandrapore, Haripur, Bachera, Chowringa, Tirupati, Mand. The underlying stories everywhere are the same. Land takeover in the name of development or big industry. Summary eviction and displacement. Inadequate compensation. Lack of informed consent. Police action and state oppression. The breakdown of democratic process. And the arrogant sense that unless you have a high, urban standard of living and speak English, you are not a legitimate Indian.

By raising the temperature then, Singur and Nandigram have brought to head several of the most crucial questions of our time. Which path to development is India taking? One custom-built to fit its complex socio-political realities, or one imposed top down? How democratic is that path? Who will bear the “pain of growth”? What will shining India do with simmering India? And most importantly, if our governments do not course correct, how will simmering India express itself? It is undoubtedly true that sections of India have seen massive growth in the last five years. We, in the urban centres, who have benefited from that economic buoyancy, we who are coasting on massive salaries and a giddy new buying power, might find it difficult to see this as lopsided growth, but the most hawkish reformer would find it hard to deny that India’s galloping gdp is being forged on an under-layer of deep resentment.

And lava always finds its volcanic mouth. Visit the first house in Singur and the stories start to flow. Srikant Koley, 31, a swarthy, muscular man, used to own five bighas of land in Gopalnagar. This has been acquired for the Tata project and now falls within the fenced-off area. From being a self-sufficient farmer, he has become a daily-wage labourer. Yet he refuses compensation. Leaning scornfully on his cycle, pointing to the rich vegetable patch around him, he says, “We hear the Tatas have spent Rs 1,50,000 crore to acquire Corus, and here it is using the government to forcibly take our land away on subsidised rates? Are they such big beggars? Our land is our wealth, it is our life’s security. I’ll gift them my land then, but I will not take money for it.” “If I sell out, what will happen to the people who work on my field,” asks 50-year-old, Pratap Ghosh, owner of three and a half acres of land, now fenced off. A giant granary towers behind him. “Who will watch out for the discontent and unrest this is going to create? We are a community, we help each other. We can’t all be absorbed by the Tata factory. If I sell, I’ll just be creating dacoits in my own house. Money is temporary, how long can it last? Land is perennial.”

Easy picking: Police clear up a protest in Kolkata against the Tata plant
AP Photo

Which path to development is India taking? One custom-built for its reality or one imposed top-down?
Everywhere you go, the refrain is the same. Money is temporary. Land is perennial. It is true. Most people in Singur have tiny land holdings — often no more than a few cottahs or bighas, which is less than an acre. Given the fertility of the land, this is enough to afford people a proud, self-sufficient life, selling would earn most of them nothing more than a couple of lakhs, at the offered rate of Rs 8-12 lakh an acre. Where would they go with this little money? What work would they do? Most development projects have turned rooted, centuries-old communities into unwanted, roving urban populations. The Tata factory will take the farmers’ lands but not their dwellings. Why should farmers want this? As Shantana Malik, a feisty woman with a gift for acerbic doggerel, says, “Why should I sell my land and swab their floors? We have enough to feed all of us; we don’t need to become menial workers in their houses. This land is my mother. I am ready to die for it. I will fight but I will not sell.”

The Left Front government and the Tatas have repeatedly asserted that the trouble in Singur has been crafted by the agitational politics of Mamata Banerjee and her party, the Trinamool Congress. (See the interview with the Tata Motors MD on page 13) They could be right. Singur is largely a Trinamool stronghold and Becharam Manna, one of the main convenors of the Krishi Jami Rakha Committee, spearheading the movement in Singur, is a Trinamool leader. (Incidentally, he is currently in Calcutta Medical Hospital, brutally beaten by the police, and off-limits for media.) But as Ranabir Samaddar, director, Calcutta Research Group says, political parties cannot create a people’s movement unless there is genuine local combustion.

'You can’t stop the (Tata’s) car factory from coming up this way... No one can stop it. Singur hobe, hobe, hobe'

West Bengal CM
That this combustion exists seems undoubted. For one, the government and the Tatas assert that hundreds of locals are already working voluntarily in the fenced off land. To a casual visitor, this seems like a false claim. The fenced area is patrolled by large contingents of police, and almost every visible worker on the field wields a lathi. Merely approaching the fence arouses startling hostility. The government and Tata Motors also assert that 600 of the 997 acres have been paid for and consensually acquired. Activists and locals assert that dissenting affidavits for 447 acres has been filed in the Calcutta High Court. Whatever the true arithmetic, the unrest in Singur has raised concerns that a neutral ear would find it hard not to be drawn into.

The most burning issue among these is the politics of land. According to Debabrata Bandhopadhyaya (ex-director, Asian Development Bank, former secretary, ministry of rural development, and the current Bihar Land Reforms Commissioner), in its bid to re-industrialise, the Left Front government is bent upon acquiring 1,40,000 (one lakh forty thousand) acres of agricultural land. This is an astronomical figure. How justified is it?

One has to travel physically to Singur or Nandigram — or any of the contentious development spots in the country — to understand the scale of what is being spoken about. Imagine your home, your life — all of sprawling South Delhi, for instance — suddenly being acquired for a cutting edge space satellite project you will have no relation with. Imagine yourself being given no room for negotiation. Imagine yourself becoming a pawn to “public purpose”. Imagine yourself being asked to move and give up your job for a paltry sum of money. Imagine yourself being asked to carve a new life for yourself elsewhere — no one can tell you where. Now reverse the situation.

'Depriving agriculture of the most fertile land in the name of SEZs is not the policy of the Left Front government'

CPI general secretary
Under what circumstances is the takeover of agricultural land for industry a fair transaction? Defenders of capitalist globalisation and big industry say that big projects like the Tata Motors small car factory will generate thousands of jobs and kick start a sluggish economy. But there are already 56,000 factories lying shut in Bengal, and almost 3.7 million acres of uncultivable land, argue opponents. Why not start new industries there? A survey of just 500 sick or closed industry units by Webcon (a wing of the government) has revealed almost 42,000 acres of acquired land lying unused in Bengal. What would a land availability survey of 56,000 factories reveal?
It is in this context that the unrest in Singur becomes more understandable. The government is acquiring land in Singur — which has 220 percent crop density — under the archaic 1894 Land Acquisition Act, citing “public purpose”. But what is “public purpose” about a private, profit making project, people ask, regardless of the jobs it might generate? The Left Front government is apparently spending Rs 140 crore on acquiring the land. But the Tatas will pay only Rs 20 crore after 5 years of getting the land. Why should the government incur this cost on behalf of a private company? Why is it playing intermediary? And is the price for land being offered really fair? Recently, in Rajarhat, a suburb of Kolkata, land was reportedly acquired by hidco, a wing of the government at Rs 5,000-Rs 15,000 a cottah. Today, the price of land there is Rs 10-20 lakh a cottah. The Tatas were shown four other sites. Why did they pick Singur, 45 kilometres from Kolkata?

'The Tatas spent
Rs 150,000 cr for Corus, and here they are using the state to take our land on subsidised rates'

A displaced Singur farmer
There are other issues at Singur. Monetary compensation to landowners does not take into account the thousands of sharecroppers and landless daily labourers who are dependent on this land for their livelihood. Who will square with their dispossession, their eviction from a symbiotic community system? As Pratap Ghosh says, “Who will watch out for all the discontent this is going to create?”

In many ways, Singur has been the most interesting test case of the latent tensions roiling across the country, because all the “best practices” players have collided here. The Left Front has traditionally been a pro-people, pro-labour party. The Tatas are widely seen as one of the most ethical business houses, a company of nation builders. And Bengal itself is a highly literate state with a strong tradition of people’s movements. Their collision was bound to sediment the questions that have been lurking just below the surface of India’s new economy.

The impact of Singur on Bengal politics cannot be overestimated. It has created unlikely bedfellows of the Congress, suci, Trinamool and the BJP. But even at its whitest heat, Singur was merely the dry run to the real catalyst that has shifted political alignments and changed the tone of development conversations not just in Bengal, but the rest of the country.


Entering Nandigram in East Midnapore, four hours from Kolkata, is like entering a zone of civil war. At Chandramarhi, 15 odd kilometres from Nandigram, one’s car is stopped by raging cpm cadres. Fists are banged on bonnet, door handles are tested violently. Angry voices ask what one’s business is in Nandigram. A press card gets you through, but the police have to restrain the surging cadres. We have lost family members too, they shout. Write about us too. At Nandigram, the scene is a concave mirror. The area is a fortress. No car can enter. Villagers have cut off access by digging massive trenches in their roads every few hundred yards. Bridges have been broken. All night vigils are kept. The slightest hint of trouble and the sound of azaan rents the air, conch shells start to blow. Thousands gather with sticks and household sickles.

Citadel farms: Guerrilla tactics, trenches cut by villagers in Nandigram make movement a near impossibility

Siege without, siege within. cpm workers — and hired goons — faithful to the government on the attack line. Villagers of Nandigram at the defence.

Again, no account in the media can prepare you for the physical reality. The sheer scale of the intended land takeover takes your breath away. Thirty-eight mouzas. More than a 100 villages. A land rich in rice, coconut, fish, and betel leaf. The revolt seems almost inevitable. Nandigram is Singur magnified thousand fold. There is no mistaking the groundswell. Here, no one can point at political foul play. No one can allege Mamata’s hand. Nandigram has been a Left Front stronghold for 35 years. Almost 80 percent of its population votes for constituents of the Left Front. Yet today, almost all the villagers of Nandigram are estranged from the party. Threat to their land has forged a new identity. Bhoomi Ucched Protirodh Committee — a people’s movement unlike any in recent time. Comprised of local villagers, left intellectuals, Naxal groups, Congress, suci, tmc, pdci, and the Jamait-e-Ulema-i-Hind. We will give our blood, not our land. That’s the war cry. Nandigram is an 80 percent Muslim area. But Hindus or Muslims, you can’t tell the difference. And the women are leading from the front.

Singur and Nandigram have brought to a head several of the most crucial questions of our time
There are reasons why many of the critical tensions of our time have found a volcanic mouth in Nandigram. The region has a proud history. A role in the Khilafat movement of 1921, the Salt Satyagraha in 1930, and the 1942 movement against the British. Pichuboni, their forefathers used to shout, we will not turn back. That clarion call has found an echo in what the reputed writer Mahasweta Devi calls, “the greatest freedom struggle of this new century.” Nandigram was also the crucible of the Tebhaga Movement, the legendary peasant struggle of 1946. It is trained in the politics of land. It has a ready list of local heroes to draw from: Khudiram Bose, Matangini Hydra, and ironically, the cpm leader, Bhopal Panda.

News of an impending acquisition had been doing the rounds in Nandigram since July, 2006. The Jamait-e-Ulema-i-Hind — a Muslim body led by Siddiqullah Choudhury and Abdus Samad — supported by cpi (ml) activists like Sumit Sinha, and left wing intellectuals like Pranab Banerjee and Debojit Dutta of the Forum of Free Thinkers, had been working the villages, holding corner meetings, seeking people’s opinion. Six hundred forms had been distributed asking people what their earnings were and whether they wanted to part with their land. Only 12 had consented. So on January 2, when the cpm leader Lakshman Seth and the Haldia Development Council announced the summary acquisition of 28,000 acres of land for a chemical hub and sez by the Salem Group (known for its strong links with the dictatorial Suharto regime), Nandigram was a filament waiting to catch fire.

The stories of repressive State violence and breakdown of democratic processes in Singur and Nandigram are depressingly the same. Arrests, lathi-charge, illegal detention. On January 3, a deputation of several hundred villagers went to the Gram Panchayat office in Kalicharanpur to enquire about the acquisition. They were brutally attacked by armed police at Bhuta Morh. Several villagers were injured. A police jeep also caught fire. Over the next few days, there was a steady build up of police and cpm goons across the canal in neighbouring Khejuri. On the night of January 6, fresh violence broke out. cpm cadres stormed Nandigram at Sonachura village. Four villagers including a 13-year-old boy were killed. The villagers retaliated by setting Shankar Samanta, a cpm leader, on fire. The trail of violence and counter-violence has continued unabated since. Khejuri is still a war zone. But the bleary-eyed villagers will not cave in.

sezs have come to be the most bitterly argued economic idea in recent times. They have sent a rift down governments in Bengal, the Centre, and several other states. Their defenders tell you they are high incentive zones meant to woo big export oriented industries. In fact, they are a thinly disguised ploy for real estate profiteering. As things stand, sezs are the East India Company all over again. They are constructed to be duty free enclaves within the country that are beyond its jurisdiction. They will have huge tax holidays, no labour laws, no excise duties, no restrictions on foreign direct investment. They will have unfair advantage over companies operating in domestic tariff areas. They will be governed by independent commissioners with extraordinary powers. They will be built on huge tracts of land, running into thousands of acres, acquired often by force by the government for “public purpose”. Yet developers will have to use only 25 percent of the land for industry. A whopping 75 percent of the land can be used for other purposes. As AB Bardhan, general secretary of the cpi, says, “Nandigram should be a lesson. Which industrial project requires 10,000 acres or 5,000 acres, or even 1,000 acres? sezs are just a way of giving land cheap to developers.”

The list of negatives is even longer than that. But whichever side of the argument you are on, no one can deny that the worst thing about the sezs is the rampant pace at which they have been introduced in the country. Given their giant implications there should have been a national debate on the issue. Instead the Central sez Bill was introduced on May 10, 2005 and passed by both Houses of Parliament on May 12, 2005! In its very first meeting, the Board of Approvals cleared 148 of the 166 proposals before it!

The Finance Minister believes sezs will lose the exchequer Rs 1,00,000 crore over the next four years and not create a proportionate spurt in employment. In fact over the last five-six years India has been witnessing jobless growth. Yet in just one year, 300 sezs in India have been cleared, 300 others are in process. Compare this with the fact that there are only 400 sezs in the world, and China — the model for our economic hawks — has only 6!

If it wasn’t for Nandigram, none of this would have come up for debate. But as violence in Nandigram spiralled, a series of pull-backs began to cascade across the country. On January 8, pm Manmohan Singh, a strong votary of sezs, promised a new humane rehabilitation policy in three months, a shocking admission that none had been in place till then. On January 19, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya announced no sezs or industrial projects would be started without surveys, land maps, and consultation with panchayats — fundamental processes that should have been followed from the outset. On January 23, media reports spoke of still other impacts in Bengal. dlf was to acquire 6,000 acres of land in Dankuni for a township and industrial park. Urban Development Minister, Asok Bhattacharya had earlier set an August 2007 deadline for “India’s largest private township.” Now, preliminary notices for only 156 acres of marshy land was issued, the rest of the land was to be “investigated”. dlf has since announced a measure of free housing and education to all its oustees! The 1,740 acre Uluberia industrial park in Howrah was also put on hold, pending “intensive survey first”. Land acquisition for the the Barasat-Raichak highway was stalled till June, while the land map is changed to avoid graves, canals, residences and fertile tracts. The sez at Kulpi has been indefinitely suspended, and Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon, who was slated to open three sezs in Bengal, was quoted in Mint on February 19, saying he would offer equity shares to the farmers his project displaces. Further, that there should be a freeze on sezs till the government came up with a comprehensive and cogent rehabilitation package for people whose land is acquired.

Events in Bengal suggest that one cannot road-roll an economic boom in India. It is idle to get trapped into simple factory vs farm, industry vs agriculture debates. Economic ideas in this country have to be more agile than that. At the height of the Singur and Nandigram unrest, an editorial in The Telegraph said, “History does not offer the option of first obtaining consent then proceeding with industrialisation. Industrialisation must take place, therefore land must be obtained. How it is obtained — with consent or otherwise, is a subject of political management.”

It is this kind of hard position that events in Bengal belie. “Development with a human face” cannot be an empty promise in India. Human faces have an uncomfortable way of asserting themselves. Two weeks after Nandigram erupted, around 150 activist groups from far flung corners of India gathered at Gandhi’s ashram in Sevagram, near Nagpur. They had come to share experiences. More significantly, they had come to merge causes. In other parts of India, groups much more militant than these are also making common cause. Their grievances are very similar: they demand democratic process. Consultation. Consent. Participation. And most of all, an effort for equitable growth.

That is the fundamental question the people of Nandigram and Singur have thrown up. Does development in India have to have only one face? Or can we find the courage of imagination to understand that wealth can have different natures?

With Shantanu Guha Ray and Avinash Dutt
Mar 03 , 2007

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Chili and Liberty by Amartya Sen


The New Republic/ Issue date: 02.27.06
The demand for multiculturalism is strong in the contemporary world. It is much invoked in the making of social, cultural, and political policies, particularly in Western Europe and America. This is not at all surprising, since increased global contacts and interactions, and in particular extensive migrations, have placed diverse practices of different cultures next to one another. The general acceptance of the exhortation to "Love thy neighbor" might have emerged when the neighbors led more or less the same kind of life ("Let's continue this conversation next Sunday morning when the organist takes a break"), but the same entreaty to love one's neighbors now requires people to take an interest in the very diverse living modes of proximate people. That this is not an easy task has been vividly illustrated once again by the confusion surrounding the recent Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed and the fury they generated. And yet the globalized nature of the contemporary
world does not allow the luxury of ignoring the difficult questions that multiculturalism raises.
One of the central issues concerns how human beings are seen. Should they be categorized in terms of inherited traditions, particularly the inherited religion, of the community in which they happen to have been born, taking that unchosen identity to have automatic priority over other affiliations involving politics, profession, class, gender, language, literature, social involvements, and many other connections? Or should they be understood as persons with many affiliations and associations, whose relative priorities they must themselves choose (taking the responsibility that comes with reasoned choice)? Also, should we assess the fairness of multiculturalism primarily by the extent to which people from different cultural backgrounds are "left alone," or by the extent to which their ability to make reasoned choices is positively supported by the social opportunities of education and participation in civil society? There is no way of escaping these rather foundational
questions if multiculturalism is to be fairly assessed.

In discussing the theory and the practice of multiculturalism, it is useful to pay particular attention to the British experience. Britain has been in the forefront of promoting inclusive multiculturalism, with a mixture of successes and difficulties, which are of relevance also to other countries in Europe and the United States. Britain experienced race riots in London and Liverpool in 1981, though nothing as large as what happened in France in the fall of 2005, and these led to further efforts toward integration. Things have been fairly stable and reasonably calm over the last quarter-century. The process of integration in Britain has been greatly helped by the fact that all British residents from the Commonwealth countries, from which most non-white immigrants have come to Britain, have full voting rights in Britain immediately, even without British citizenship. Integration has also been helped by largely non-discriminatory treatment of immigrants in health care,
schooling, and social security. Despite all this, however, Britain has recently experienced the alienation of a group of immigrants, and also fully homegrown terrorism, when some young Muslims from immigrant families--born, educated, and reared in Britain--killed many people in London through suicide bombings in July 2005.
Discussions of British policies on multiculturalism thus have a much wider reach, and arouse much greater interest and passion, than the boundaries of the ostensible subject matter would lead one to expect. Six weeks after the July terrorist attacks in London, when Le Monde published a critical essay called "The British Multicultural Model in Crisis," the debate was immediately joined by a leader of another liberal establishment, James A. Goldston, director of the Open Society Justice Initiative in America, who described the Le Monde article as "trumpeting," and replied: "Don't use the very real threat of terrorism to justify shelving more than a quarter-century of British achievement in the field of race relations." There is a general issue of some importance to be debated and evaluated here.
I will argue that the real issue is not whether "multiculturalism has gone too far" (as Goldston summarizes one of the lines of criticism), but what particular form multiculturalism should take. Is multiculturalism nothing other than tolerance of the diversity of cultures? Does it make a difference who chooses the cultural practices--whether they are imposed on young children in the name of "the culture of the community" or whether they are freely chosen by persons with adequate opportunity to learn and to reason about alternatives? What facilities do members of different communities have, in schools as well as in the society at large, to learn about the faiths and non-faiths of different people in the world, and to understand how to reason about choices that human beings must, if only implicitly, make?

Britain, to which I first came as a student in 1953, has been particularly impressive in making room for different cultures. The distance traveled has been in many ways quite extraordinary. I recollect (with some fondness, I must admit) how worried my first landlady in Cambridge was about the possibility that my skin color might come off in the bath (I had to assure her that my hue was agreeably sturdy and durable), and also the care with which she explained to me that writing was a special invention of Western civilization ("The Bible did it"). For someone who has lived--intermittently but for long periods--through the powerful evolution of British cultural diversity, the contrast between Britain today and Britain half a century ago is just amazing.
The encouragement given to cultural diversity has certainly made many contributions to people's lives. It has helped Britain to become an exceptionally lively place in many different ways. From the joys of multicultural food, literature, music, dancing, and the arts to the befuddling entrapment of the Notting Hill Carnival, Britain gives its people--of all backgrounds--much to relish and to celebrate. Also, the acceptance of cultural diversity (as well as voting rights and largely non-discriminatory public services and social security, referred to earlier) has made it easier for people with very different origins to feel at home.
Still, it is worth recalling that the acceptance of diverse living modes and varying cultural priorities has not always had an easy ride even in Britain. There has been a periodic but persistent demand that immigrants give up their traditional styles of life and adopt the dominant living modes in the society to which they have immigrated. That demand has sometimes taken a remarkably detailed view of culture, involving quite minute behavioral issues, well illustrated by the famous cricket test proposed by Lord Tebbit, the Conservative political leader. His cricket test suggested that the sign of a well-integrated immigrant is that he cheers for England in test matches against the country of his own origin (such as Pakistan) when the two sides play each other.
Tebbit's test has, it must be admitted, the merit of definiteness, and gives an immigrant a marvelously clear-cut procedure for easily establishing his or her integration into British society: "Cheer for the English cricket team and you will be fine!" The immigrant's job in making sure that he or she is really integrated into British society could otherwise be quite exacting, if only because it is no longer easy to identify what actually is the dominant lifestyle in Britain to which the immigrant must conform. Curry, for example, is now so omnipresent in the British diet that it features as "authentic British fare," according to the British Tourist Board. In last year's General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examinations, taken by graduating schoolchildren around sixteen years old, two of the questions included in the "Leisure and Tourism" paper were: "Other than Indian food, name one other type of food often provided by take-away restaurants" and "Describe what
customers need to do to receive a delivery service from an Indian take-away restaurant." Reporting on the GCSE in 2005, the Daily Telegraph complained not about any cultural bias in these nationwide exams, but about the "easy" nature of the questions, which anyone in Britain should be able to answer without any special training.
I also recollect seeing, not long ago, a definitive description of the unquestionable Englishness of an Englishwoman in a London paper: "She is as English as daffodils or chicken tikka masala." Given all this, a South Asian immigrant to Britain might be a bit confused, but for Tebbit's kindly help, about what will count as a surefire test of British identity. The important issue underlying the frivolity of the foregoing discussion is that cultural contacts are currently leading to such a hybridization of behavioral modes across the world that it is exceptionally difficult to identify any local culture as being genuinely indigenous, with a timeless quality. But thanks to Tebbit, the task of establishing Britishness can become nicely algorithmic and wonderfully easy (almost as easy as answering the GCSE questions just cited).

Tebbit has gone on to suggest, more recently, that if his cricket test had been put to use, it would have helped to prevent the terrorist attacks by British-born militants of Pakistani origin: "Had my comments been acted on, those attacks would have been less likely." It is difficult to avoid the thought that this confident prediction perhaps underestimates the ease with which any would-be terrorist--with or without training from Al Qaeda--could pass the cricket test by cheering for the English cricket team without changing his behavior pattern one iota in any other way.
I don't know how much into cricket Tebbit himself is. If you enjoy the game, cheering for one side or the other is determined by a number of varying factors: one's national loyalty or residential identity, of course, but also the quality of play and the overall interest of a series. Wanting a particular outcome often has a contingent quality that would make it hard to insist on unvarying and unfailed rooting for any team (England or any other). Despite my Indian origin and nationality, I must confess that I have sometimes cheered for the Pakistani cricket team, not only against England but also against India. During the Pakistani team's tour of India in 2005, when Pakistan lost the first two one-day matches in the series of six, I cheered for Pakistan for the third match, to keep the series alive and interesting. In the event, Pakistan went well beyond my hopes and won all of the remaining four matches to defeat India soundly by the margin of four to two (another instance
of Pakistan's "extremism" of which Indians complain so much!).
A more serious problem lies in the obvious fact that admonitions of the kind enshrined in Tebbit's cricket test are entirely irrelevant to the duties of British citizenship or residence, such as participation in British politics, joining British social life, or desisting from making bombs. They are also quite distant from anything that may be needed to lead a fully cohesive life in the country.
These points were quickly seized upon in post-imperial Britain, and despite the diversions of such invitations as Tebbit's cricket test, the inclusionary nature of British political and social traditions made sure that varying cultural modes within the country could be seen as being entirely acceptable in a multi-ethnic Britain. To be sure, there are many natives who continue to feel that this historical trend is a great mistake, and that disapproval is often combined with severe resentment that Britain has become such a multi-ethnic country at all. (In my last encounter with such a resenter, at a bus stop, I was suddenly told, "I have seen through you all!," but I was disappointed that my informant refused to tell me more about what he had seen.) Yet the weight of British public opinion has been moving, at least until recently, quite strongly in the direction of tolerating--and even celebrating--cultural diversity. All this, and the inclusionary role of voting rights and
non-discriminatory public services, have contributed to an interracial calm of a kind that France in particular has not enjoyed recently. Still, it leaves some of the central issues of multiculturalism entirely unresolved, and I want to take them up now.
One important issue concerns the distinction between multiculturalism and what may be called "plural monoculturalism." Does the existence of a diversity of cultures, which might pass one another like ships in the night, count as a successful case of multiculturalism? Since, in the matter of identity, Britain is currently torn between interaction and isolation, the distinction is centrally important (and even has a bearing on the question of terrorism and violence).
Consider a culinary contrast, by noting first that Indian and British food can genuinely claim to be multicultural. India had no chili until the Portuguese brought it to India from America, but it is effectively used in a wide range of Indian food today and seems to be a dominant element in most types of curries. It is plentifully present in a mouth-burning form in vindaloo, which, as its name indicates, carries the immigrant memory of combining wine with potatoes. Tandoori cooking might have been perfected in India, but it originally came to India from West Asia. Curry powder, on the other hand, is a distinctly English invention, unknown in India before Lord Clive, and evolved, I imagine, in the British army mess. And we are beginning to see the emergence of new styles of preparing Indian food, offered in sophisticated subcontinental restaurants in London.
In contrast, having two styles or traditions co-existing side by side, without the twain meeting, must really be seen as plural monoculturalism. The vocal defense of multiculturalism that we frequently hear these days is very often nothing more than a plea for plural monoculturalism. If a young girl in a conservative immigrant family wants to go out on a date with an English boy, that would certainly be a multicultural initiative. In contrast, the attempt by her guardians to stop her from doing this (a common enough occurrence) is hardly a multicultural move, since it seeks to keep the cultures separate. And yet it is the parents' prohibition, which contributes to plural monoculturalism, that seems to garner the loudest and most vocal defense from alleged multiculturalists, on the ground of the importance of honoring traditional cultures--as if the cultural freedom of the young woman were of no relevance whatever, and as if the distinct cultures must somehow remain in
secluded boxes.
Being born in a particular social background is not in itself an exercise of cultural liberty, since it is not an act of choice. In contrast, the decision to stay firmly within the traditional mode would be an exercise of freedom, if the choice were made after considering other altenatives. In the same way, a decision to move away--by a little or a lot--from the standard behavior pattern, arrived at after reflection and reasoning, would also qualify as such an exercise. Indeed, cultural freedom can frequently clash with cultural conservatism, and if multiculturalism is defended in the name of cultural freedom, then it can hardly be seen as demanding unwavering and unqualified support for staying steadfastly within one's inherited cultural tradition.

The second question relates to the fact that while religion or ethnicity may be an important identity for people (especially if they have the freedom to choose between celebrating or rejecting inherited or attributed traditions), there are other affiliations and associations that people also have reason to value. Unless it is defined very oddly, multiculturalism cannot override the right of a person to participate in civil society, or to take part in national politics, or to lead a socially non-conformist life. No matter how important multiculturalism is, it cannot lead automatically to giving priority to the dictates of traditional culture over all else.
The people of the world cannot be seen merely in terms of their religious affiliations--as a global federation of religions. For much the same reasons, a multi-ethnic Britain can hardly be seen as a collection of ethnic communities. Yet the "federational" view has gained much support in contemporary Britain. Indeed, despite the tyrannical implications of putting persons into rigid boxes of given "communities," that view is frequently interpreted, rather bafflingly, as an ally of individual freedom. There is even a much-aired "vision" of "the future of multi-ethnic Britain" that sees it as "a looser federation of cultures" held together by common bonds of interest and affection and a collective sense of being.
But must a person's relation to Britain be mediated through the culture of the family in which he or she was born? A person may decide to seek closeness with more than one of these pre-defined cultures or, just as plausibly, with none. Also, a person may well decide that her ethnic or cultural identity is less important to her than, say, her political convictions, or her professional commitments, or her literary persuasions. It is a choice for her to make, no matter what her place is in the strangely imagined "federation of cultures."
There would be serious problems with the moral and social claims of multiculturalism if it were taken to insist that a person's identity must be defined by his or her community or religion, overlooking all the other affiliations a person has, and giving automatic priority to inherited religion or tradition over reflection and choice. And yet that approach to multiculturalism has assumed a pre-eminent role in some of the official British policies in recent years.
The state policy of actively promoting new "faith schools," freshly devised for Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh children (in addition to pre-existing Christian schools), illustrates this approach, and not only is it educationally problematic, it also encourages a fragmentary perception of the demands of living in a desegregated Britain. Many of these new educational institutions are coming up precisely at a time when religious prioritization has been a major source of violence in the world (adding to the history of such violence in Britain itself, including Catholic-Protestant divisions in Northern Ireland--themselves not unconnected with segmented schooling). Prime Minister Tony Blair is certainly right to note that "there is a very strong sense of ethos and values in those schools." But education is not just about getting children, even very young ones, immersed in an old inherited ethos. It is also about helping children to develop the ability to reason about new decisions any
grown-up person will have to take. The important goal is not some formulaic parity in relation to old Brits with their old-faith schools, but what would best enhance the capability of the children to live "examined lives" as they grow up in an integrated country.

The central issue was put a long time ago with great clarity by Akbar, the Indian emperor, in his observations on reason and faith in the 1590s. Akbar, the Great Mughal, was born a Muslim and died a Muslim, but he insisted that faith cannot have priority over reason, since one must justify--and, if necessary, reject--one's inherited faith through reason. Attacked by traditionalists who argued in favor of instinctive faith, Akbar told his friend and trusted lieutenant Abul Fazl, a formidable scholar with much expertise in different religions: "The pursuit of reason and rejection of traditionalism are so brilliantly patent as to be above the need of argument. If traditionalism were proper, the prophets would merely have followed their own elders (and not come with new messages)." Reason had to be supreme, in Akbar's view, since even in disputing reason, we would have to give reasons.
Convinced that he had to take a serious interest in the diverse religions of India, Akbar arranged for recurring dialogues involving not only people from mainstream Hindu and Muslim backgrounds in sixteenth-century India, but also Christians, Jews, Parsees, Jains, and even the followers of "Carvaka"--a school of atheistic thinking that had robustly flourished in India for more than two thousand years from around the sixth century B.C.E. Rather than taking an "all or nothing" view of a faith, Akbar liked to reason about particular components of each multi-faceted religion. Arguing with Jains, for example, Akbar would remain skeptical of their rituals, and yet he was convinced by their argument for vegetarianism and even ended up deploring the eating of flesh in general. Despite the irritation all this caused among those who preferred to base religious belief on faith rather than reasoning, he stuck to what he called "the path of reason," the rahi aql, and insisted on the
need for open dialogue and free choice. Akbar also claimed that his own liberal Islamic beliefs came from reasoning and choice, not from blind faith or what he called "the marshy land of tradition."
There is also the further question (particularly relevant to Britain) about how non-immigrant communities should see the demands of multicultural education. Should it take the form of leaving each community to conduct its own special historical celebrations, without responding to the need for the "old Brits" to be more fully aware of the global inter-relations in the origins and development of world civilization? If the roots of so-called Western science or culture draw on, say, Chinese innovations, Indian and Arabic mathematics, or West Asian preservation of the Greco-Roman heritage (with, for example, Arabic translations of forgotten Greek classics being re-translated into Latin many centuries later), should there not be a fuller reflection of that robust interactive past than can be found, at this time, in the school curriculum of multi-ethnic Britain?
When a British or an American mathematician today employs an algorithm to solve a computational problem, he or she implicitly commemorates the contribution of the ninth-century Muslim mathematician al-Khwarizmi, from whose name the term "algorithm" is derived, and from whose path-breaking Arabic mathematical book, Al-Jabr wa al-Muqabalah, the term "algebra" originates. Even if Muslim faith schools fail to celebrate such non-religious works of Muslim intellectuals, should not all British students--old Brits as well as new ones--read something about such global contributions to the roots of modern world civilization? Educational broadening is important not only in Britain but across the world, including the United States and Europe. World history need not come to children (as it often does) only in the form of parochial recollections, combined sometimes with small capsules of packaged history of religion--not to mention the lampooning cartoons encountered outside the school.
The priorities of genuinely multicultural education can differ a great deal from the intellectual segmentation of a plural monocultural society.

If one issue concerning faith schools involves the problematic nature of giving priority to unreasoned faith over reasoning, there is another momentous issue here, which concerns the role of religion in categorizing people, rather than other bases of classification. People's priorities and actions are influenced by all of their affiliations and associations, not merely by religion. The separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan was based on reasons of language and literature, along with political priorities, and not on religion, which both wings of undivided Pakistan shared. To ignore everything other than faith is to obliterate the reality of concerns that have moved people to assert identities that go well beyond religion.
The Bangladeshi community, large as it is in Britain, is merged in the religious accounting into one large mass along with all the other co-religionists, with no further acknowledgment of culture and priorities. While this may please the Islamic priests and religious leaders, it certainly shortchanges the abundant culture of that country and emaciates the richly diverse identities that Bangladeshis have. It also chooses to ignore altogether the history of the formation of Bangladesh itself. There is, as it happens, an ongoing political struggle at this time within Bangladesh between secularists and their detractors (including religious fundamentalists), and it is not obvious why British official policy has to be more in tune with the latter than with the former.
The problem, it must be admitted, did not originate with recent British governments. Indeed, official British policy has for many years given the impression that it is inclined to see British citizens and residents originating from the subcontinent primarily in terms of their respective communities, and now--after the recent accentuation of religiosity (including fundamentalism) in the world--community is defined primarily in terms of faith, rather than by taking account of more broadly defined cultures. The problem is not confined to schooling, nor to Muslims. The tendency to take Hindu or Sikh religious leaders as spokesmen for the British Hindu or Sikh population, respectively, is also a feature of the same process. Instead of encouraging British citizens of diverse backgrounds to interact with one another in civil society, and to participate in British politics as citizens, the invitation is to act "through" their "own community."
The limited horizons of this reductionist thinking directly affect the living modes of the different communities, with particularly severe constraining effects on the lives of immigrants and their families. But going beyond that, how citizens and residents see themselves can also affect the lives of others, as the violent events in Britain last summer showed. For one thing, the vulnerability to influences of sectarian extremism is much greater if one is reared and schooled in the sectarian (but not necessarily violent) mode. The British government is seeking to stop the preaching of hatred by religious leaders, which must be right, but the problem is far more extensive than that. It concerns whether citizens of immigrant backgrounds should see themselves as members of particular communities and specific religious ethnicities first, and only through that membership see themselves as British, in a supposed federation of communities. It is not hard to understand that this
fractional view of any nation would make it more open to the preaching and cultivation of sectarian violence.
Tony Blair has good reason to want to "go out" and have debates about terror and peace "inside the Muslim community," and (as he put it) to "get right into the entrails of [that] community." Blair's dedication to fairness and justice is hard to dispute. And yet the future of multi-ethnic Britain must lie in recognizing, supporting, and helping to advance the many different ways in which citizens with distinct politics, linguistic heritages, and social priorities (along with different ethnicities and religions) can interact with one another in their different capacities, including as citizens. Civil society in particular has a very important role to play in the lives of all citizens. The participation of British immigrants--Muslims as well as others--should not be primarily placed, as it increasingly is, in the basket of "community relations," and seen as being mediated by religious leaders (including "moderate" priests and "mild" imams, and other agreeable spokesmen of
religious communities).
There is a real need to re-think the understanding of multiculturalism, so as to avoid conceptual disarray about social identity and also to resist the purposeful exploitation of the divisiveness that this conceptual disarray allows and even, to some extent, encourages. What has to be particularly avoided (if the foregoing analysis is right) is the confusion between a multiculturalism that goes with cultural liberty, on the one side, and plural monoculturalism that goes with faith-based separatism, on the other. A nation can hardly be seen as a collection of sequestered segments, with citizens being assigned places in predetermined segments.
There is an uncanny similarity between the problems that Britain faces today and those that British India faced, and which Mahatma Gandhi thought were getting direct encouragement from the Raj. Gandhi was critical in particular of the official view that India was a collection of religious communities. When Gandhi came to London for the Indian Round Table Conference called by the British government in 1931, he found that he was assigned to a specific sectarian corner in the revealingly named "Federal Structure Committee." Gandhi resented the fact that he was being depicted primarily as a spokesman for Hindus, in particular "caste Hindus," with the rest of the population being represented by delegates, chosen by the British prime minister, of each of the "other communities."
Gandhi insisted that while he himself was a Hindu, the political movement that he led was staunchly secular and not a community-based movement. It had supporters from all the different religious groups in India. While he saw that a distinction can be made along religious lines, he pointed to the fact that other ways of dividing the population of India were no less relevant. Gandhi made a powerful plea for the British rulers to see the plurality of the diverse identities of Indians. In fact, he said he wanted to speak not for Hindus in particular, but for "the dumb, toiling, semi-starved millions" who constitute "over 85 percent of the population of India." He added that, with some extra effort, he could speak even for the rest, "the Princes ... the landed gentry, the educated class."
Gender, as Gandhi pointed out, was another basis for an important distinction that the British categories ignored, thereby giving no special place to considering the problems of Indian women. He told the British prime minister, "You have had, on behalf of the women, a complete repudiation of special representation," and went on to point out that "they happen to be one-half of the population of India." Sarojini Naidu, who came with Gandhi to the Round Table Conference, was the only woman delegate at the conference. Gandhi mentioned the fact that she was elected the president of the Congress Party, overwhelmingly the largest political party in India (this was in 1925, which was exactly fifty years before any woman was elected to preside over any major British political party). Sarojini Naidu could, on the Raj's "representational" line of reasoning, speak for half the Indian people, namely Indian women; and Abdul Qaiyum, another delegate, pointed also to the fact that Naidu,
whom he called "the Nightingale of India," was also the one distinguished poet in the assembled gathering, a different kind of identity from being seen as a Hindu politician.

In a meeting arranged at the Royal Institute of International Affairs during his visit, Gandhi insisted that he was trying to resist "the vivisection of a whole nation." He was not ultimately successful, of course, in his attempt at "staying together," though it is known that he was in favor of taking more time to negotiate to prevent the partition of 1947 than the rest of the Congress leadership found acceptable. Gandhi would have been extremely pained also by the violence against Muslims that was organized by sectarian Hindu leaders in his own state of Gujarat in 2002. But he would have been relieved by the massive condemnation that these barbarities received from the Indian population at large, which influenced the heavy defeat, in the Indian general elections that followed in May 2004, of the parties implicated in the violence in Gujarat.
Gandhi would have taken some comfort in the fact, not unrelated to his point at the Round Table Conference in London in 1931, that India, with more than 80 percent Hindu population, is led today by a Sikh prime minister (Manmohan Singh) and headed by a Muslim president (Abdul Kalam), with its ruling party (Congress) being presided over by a woman from a Christian background (Sonia Gandhi). Such mixtures of communities may be seen in most walks of Indian life, from literature and cinema to business and sports, and they are not regarded as anything particularly special. It is not just that a Muslim is the richest businessman--indeed the wealthiest person--living in India (Azim Premji), or the first putative international star in women's tennis (Sania Mirza), or has captained the Indian cricket team (Pataudi and Azharuddin), but also that all of them are seen as Indians in general, not as Indian Muslims in particular.
During the recent parliamentary debate on the judicial report on the killings of Sikhs that occurred immediately after Indira Gandhi's assassination by her Sikh bodyguard, the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, told the Indian parliament, "I have no hesitation in apologising not only to the Sikh community but to the whole Indian nation because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood and what is enshrined in our Constitution." Singh's multiple identities are very much in prominence here when he apologized, in his role as prime minister of India and a leader of the Congress Party, to the Sikh community, of which he is a member (with his omnipresent blue turban), and to the whole Indian nation, of which he is a citizen. All this might be very puzzling if people were to be seen in the "solitarist" perspective of only one identity each, but the multiplicity of identities and roles fits very well with the fundamental point Gandhi was making at the
London conference.
Much has been written concerning the fact that India, with more Muslim people than almost every Muslim-majority country in the world (and with nearly as many Muslims--more than 145 million--as Pakistan), has produced extremely few homegrown terrorists acting in the name of Islam, and almost none linked with Al Qaeda. There are many causal influences here, including the influence of the growing and integrated Indian economy. But some credit must also go to the nature of Indian democratic politics, and to the wide acceptance in India of the idea, championed by Gandhi, that there are many identities other than religious ethnicity that are relevant to a person's self-understanding, and also to the relations between citizens of diverse backgrounds within the country.
I recognize that it is a little embarrassing for me, as an Indian, to claim that, thanks to the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and others (including the clearheaded analysis of "the idea of India" by Rabindranath Tagore, the greatest Indian poet, who described his family background as "a confluence of three cultures, Hindu, Mohammedan, and British"), India has been able, to a considerable extent, to avoid indigenous terrorism linked to Islam, which currently threatens a number of Western countries, including Britain. But Gandhi was expressing a very general concern, not one specific to India, when he asked, "Imagine the whole nation vivisected and torn to pieces; how could it be made into a nation?"
That query was motivated by Gandhi's deep worries about the future of India. But the problem is not specific to India. It arises for other nations too, including the country that ruled India until 1947. The disastrous consequences of defining people by their religious ethnicity and giving priority to the community-based perspective over all other identities, which Gandhi thought was receiving support from India's British rulers, may well have come, alas, to haunt the country of the rulers themselves.
In the Round Table Conference in 1931, Gandhi did not get his way, and even his dissenting opinions were only briefly recorded, with no mention of where the dissent came from. In a gentle complaint addressed to the British prime minister, Gandhi remarked, "In most of these reports you will find that there is a dissenting opinion, and in most of the cases that dissent unfortunately happens to belong to me." Yet Gandhi's farsighted refusal to see a nation as a federation of religions and communities did not "belong" only to him or to the secular India he was leading. It also belongs to any country in the world that is willing to see the serious problems to which Gandhi was drawing attention.

Amartya Sen received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998.
His new book, Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny, will be published by W.W. Norton this spring.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Why Gujarat 'Banned' Parzania -by J.S. Bandukwala

February 14, 2007

(Outlook India Feb 19, 2007)

Why Gujarat 'Banned' Parzania

One man's diktat is the last word: even Narendra Modi acquiesces ......

by J.S. Bandukwala

A Parsi family lost their only son in the mob frenzy at the Gulbarg Society in 2002. They had taken refuge in the home of a prominent leader, Ehsan Jaffri, confident they would be safe near this ex-parliamentarian. But the mob was after Jaffri's blood. Even the police commissioner refused to intervene. Appeals for his protection made to the highest levels in New Delhi drew a blank. Jaffri died a tortuous death. Scores perished. In the commotion that followed, the Parsi child got separated from his family and has not been traced since. For the past five years, the family has waited for their son to return.

Rahul Dholakia, an NRI film director and scion of an eminent Gujarati family, was so moved by this tragedy that he made a film, Parzania, based on it. He hoped its screening would help locate the child. But Dholakia had not reckoned on Babu Bajrangi—the principal accused in the Naroda Patiya case where more than a hundred people were butchered.

In the moral vacuum of post-Godhra Gujarat, Bajrangi largely decides how Gujaratis should live their lives. In the last few years, he has concentrated on two projects—to kidnap Hindu girls who marry non-Hindus and compel them to divorce their husbands. His other passion is to bash up intimate couples on college campuses or gardens. Police sympathies are very much with Bajrangi. He is praised for upholding caste, religious and female purity. Even the all-powerful Narendra Modi bows to Bajrangi's social dictates.

Unfortunately for Dholakia and the Parsi family, Bajrangi decided Parzania would hurt the image of Gujarat, and therefore, must not be screened. In typical godfather style, he made an offer to theatre owners which they dared not disobey. Not a single theatre was ready to screen the movie. The Baroda PUCL decided to screen it on its own. But here too, friends pointed out the likely damage to projector and hall would be too much for a cash-strapped body of activists.

What has happened to Gujarat that a character like Bajrangi can be elevated to the status of a demi-god? Oddly, 50 years ago, the American civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, while flying from Delhi to Ahmedabad, told reporters, "I came to India as a tourist. But I go to Ahmedabad as a pilgrim." Such a comment would be laughable today. No one associates Gujarat with Gandhi. In fact, Gujarat and communal madness are two sides of the same coin. It's the only state where the government machinery took an active part in the butchery of its minority community. Then, was Gandhi an accident in Gujarat? In truth, the answer is yes. It's the greatness of the Mahatma that he could rise above the prejudices of his own people, to such iconic heights.

Gujarat is an economic powerhouse. Its people are dynamic and forward-looking when it comes to economic matters. But on social indices, it is most backward. The male-female imbalance is among the highest in the country. Bride-burning is rampant, to the extent that many communities insist on marrying a brother-sister pair to another sister-brother pair, to prevent such horrors. Similarly shocking is the treatment of Dalits and tribals—the small improvements in their lives are only because of the fear they will cross over to Christianity. The economically impoverished and socially weak are discouraged to assert their rights. It may even be dangerous. Hence, unlike Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu, no social revolution has ever occurred here.

Gandhi's impact was much greater outside Gujarat. There is almost no remorse for the killing of the innocents in the riots. The justification is that Muslims had to be taught a lesson. The example of Godhra and of Kashmiri Pandits is frequently highlighted. Just last month, Jayaben Shah, a prominent Gandhian of Rajkot, came out with a blistering attack on the Muslims.She was upset with the Sachar report. Her response would make the RSS proud. Surprisingly, communalism is the most apparent in the upper strata of society. And the VHP and Bajrang Dal have their strongest support among Gujaratis settled in the US. In contrast, the lower you go down the social strata, lesser the communal hatred. This indicates that factors like wealth and education may actually be contributing to the hatred of the minorities.

What role can liberal human rights activists play? I'm convinced there is little we can do within the state beyond helping to educate Muslims, Dalits and tribals. Meanwhile, we must learn to ignore Bajrangi and the forces he represents, or better still, learn to laugh at them. My suggestion is simple: Ahmedabad and Gujarat are too small for the vast talents of Bajrangi. The BJP would find his special tactics and abilities invaluable at the national level.

(A physics professor at the Baroda University, Dr Bandukwala's house was destroyed in the '02 riots.)

Raising Women to Be Leaders

The Four Sullivan Sisters
Learned to Work Early,
Aim High and Try Again
February 12, 2007; Page B1

Denise Sullivan was nine years old and her sister Maggie was eight when they organized their first carnival to raise money for muscular dystrophy. They mobilized friends on their block to build game booths in their backyard in Elberon, N.J. They rode their bikes to other neighborhoods to post signs advertising the carnival and collected used toys for prizes. One year, they raised $25, charging a penny a game.

"We discovered we liked handling money and liked being in charge," says Maggie.

They have been bouncing business ideas off one another ever since, handling more and more money as they have taken charge of bigger and bigger enterprises. Denise Sullivan Morrison, 52 years old, is president of Campbell USA at Campbell Soup Co., having advanced through a variety of high-octane jobs at Nestlé SA, Nabisco, Kraft Foods Inc. and other food giants. Maggie Sullivan Wilderotter, 51, is chairman and CEO of Citizens Communications Co., a $2 billion telecommunications company.

Their two younger sisters also are executives. Colleen Bastkowski, 45, is a regional vice president of sales at Expedia Inc.'s Expedia Corporate Travel. Andrea Doelling, 42, a champion horse jumper now devoting time to equestrian competition, most recently was senior vice president of sales at AT&T Wireless.

It is rare for four brothers to achieve such levels of success. The fact that they are sisters is striking. Half of all managers in the U.S. are female, but most are stuck in midlevel staff jobs. In senior posts, men outnumber women by almost six to one.

The Sullivan sisters, as they were known growing up, beat these odds, in large part because of their upbringing. Their father, an AT&T Inc. executive, wanted to share everything he knew about business with his girls, including talking to them, while they were still in grade school, about setting profit-margin goals. Their mother taught them that ambition is a part of femininity.

Dennis Sullivan, a Korean War veteran who started his career at New Jersey Bell, expected to raise at least one son. When he had four daughters, he imbued them with his intense work ethic and encouraged them to be independent and determined, and to cultivate big goals. "He didn't have sons to mentor so he was stuck teaching us," says Maggie.

He brought home models of the Princess Trimline phone when it was being developed and talked about marketing. He took the girls to his office decades before the launch of "bring your daughters to work day." And he showed, through his own climb, how getting ahead requires changing jobs frequently to gain broad experience. From New Jersey Bell, he moved to New York Telephone, then to AT&T, back to New York Telephone and AT&T, to Ohio Bell, to AT&T again, and finally to Cincinnati Bell, where he was chief financial officer.

"I tried to inculcate them with what the business world is like -- how products get launched, customers sampled -- and about all the interesting people I met, and how they could be part of that," says Mr. Sullivan. "I'd ask them what their goals were and when they told me, I'd add a few more to their list."

Mr. Sullivan told each of his daughters to read at least one book a week and then write a report about it. He also expected them to get A's in school. When President Kennedy promoted the Royal Canadian Air Force fitness regimen, he woke his family at 6 a.m. to exercise together. " 'Rise and shine,' he'd shout to us and we'd all have to do leg lifts," says Denise.

Connie Sullivan, his wife of 54 years, was equally disciplined. A self-professed perfectionist who still wakes up at 4:30 every morning, she designed her daughters' Halloween costumes by August each year, dressed stylishly and enjoyed decorating her home. But she wasn't a traditional housewife. She became a Realtor when her youngest daughter started school and soon earned a spot in her employer's million-dollar club -- selling $28,000 homes. "Money was tight then," she says, and she was able to boost her family's income.

The Sullivans expected their daughters to choose activities they liked and to figure out on their own how to excel at them. Aim high, they said, and if you don't get what you want, analyze what went wrong and try again.

When Denise, the eldest sister, didn't make her high-school cheerleading team at 14, she quickly set her sights on becoming a baton twirler in the marching band. A teacher tried to dissuade her, saying she didn't walk gracefully. But Denise talked to her mother and concluded, "I think what the teacher is saying is I'm a little pigeon-toed," recalls Connie Sullivan.

Denise worked to correct the problem by taking long walks. She became captain of the team and the first twirler in her school to perform with a fire-lit baton. Her mother worried she might get hurt, but instead of stopping her, sewed her a fireproof twirling outfit.

Maggie, "the one who was always pushing the envelope," she says, was elected to student government and raised money for community causes. In ninth grade, she was summoned to the principal's office to take a call from the White House. An assistant to President Nixon told her the president appreciated her invitation to a local benefit for Vietnam Veterans but couldn't attend. "Isn't he at least going to pay for the dinner tickets I sent?" Maggie asked. The president's check arrived the next week.

Several years later, when Andrea asked her parents to buy her a horse, her father -- who was being transferred from Cleveland back to New Jersey -- told her to figure out what that would cost. Andrea, who was 13, called horse breeders, trainers and moving companies, and concluded it would be most economical to buy a horse in Ohio and transport it east in a van owned by a Cleveland race track. She showed her father her cost analysis -- and got the horse.

By then, their father was being transferred frequently for work. Colleen attended three high schools and learned to make new friends quickly by developing a unique sense of humor. She created her own stand-up comedy routine. "I learned to not get upset or bothered by change and to be able to adapt to new situations," she says.

[See a slideshow.]5

Wherever they were, the sisters had to earn their allowance. Every Saturday, each chose a slip of paper from a big glass jar their parents called "the job jar," on which was written a chore: washing and drying the dishes, for example, or shoveling snow. They could negotiate with one another and swap chores, but had to do something. As teenagers, they also found paying jobs.

The teamwork their parents expected at home evolved into a support network, despite their competitiveness with each other at times. "Sure we fought, sometimes like cats and dogs, but we didn't float in the same circles, so we could give each other a different perspective," says Maggie.

When their younger sisters started working, Denise and Maggie encouraged them to take jobs in sales, where individual performance is quantifiable. Colleen and Andrea both advanced in sales at AT&T and AT&T Wireless. Colleen sought her sisters' advice about her compensation contract when she was hired at Expedia.

"We call ourselves the Network because we each have different skills that we draw on," says Colleen, who calls Andrea every day and usually talks with her older sisters once a week. "Denise is the strategist, Maggie the networker, Andrea the communicator and I'm the competitive one," says Colleen. She started out as a secretary at AT&T. When given a chance in sales, she brought in so many new accounts she was promoted to management.

Denise and Maggie were "the pioneers who paved the way for us," says Andrea. They were among the first generation of women to seek management jobs. Both went to Jesuit colleges -- Denise to Boston College and Maggie to Holy Cross. Both worked part time to help pay their tuition and married soon after they graduated. They chose different business paths: Denise took a sales job at Procter & Gamble Co.'s paper-products division in Boston and Maggie accepted an accounting job at a start-up in California. Both were often the only women at business meetings in the late 1970s.

When Denise became the first woman in her P&G division to become pregnant, her boss warned her she would be fired if she didn't return from maternity leave in six weeks. She tried to humor him, saying, "Just pretend I broke a leg and can't walk around the stores for a while."

She never tolerated being held back. When her husband got a job in New York, Denise asked for a transfer within P&G and was told she would have to take a lower-level position -- even though she was leading her division's top sales team. She declined and found a better job at PepsiCo Inc. "I learned then to manage my own career -- and that loyalty to people counts more than loyalty to any one company."

Maggie had an easier start in Silicon Valley's start-up culture. She followed her husband, an Air Force pilot, to Sacramento and joined Cable Data, a software company with 300 employees. Founder Bob Matthews went out of his way to advance and retain women, offering Friday night baby-sitting services, free dry cleaning and other perks.

In her 12 years there, Maggie held 14 different jobs, including a stint as manager of regional operations. The job gave her profit-and-loss responsibility, "something a lot of women never get," she says.

Always pushing to expand her business network, Maggie went after a seat on the National Cable Television Association's board. Ten board seats were held by CEOs of the top cable companies, her biggest customers. Two seats were reserved for vendor companies such as Cable Data. Maggie called every vendor to try to get votes -- just as she had done in high school when she called every attorney in her local phone book until she found one willing to hire her as a typist.

She lost her first attempt to get on the board but made a successful bid the following year. Her fellow directors were shocked, she says. "I was a vice president of a tiny company and this was a CEO club," she says.

She and Denise supported one another's decision to keep working after they had children, agreeing they didn't want to quit careers they loved. When Maggie was nine months pregnant with her first child, she jumped on a plane because a customer refused to sign a contract unless she was there in person. When her two sons were young, she and her husband, who bought a vineyard after retiring from the Air Force, agreed he would be the one to stay close to home.

Denise divorced and remarried in her early 30s. She and her second husband, who also has a daughter, blended families and shared parenting. All the while, she analyzed her career moves to see what experience she needed to advance. She kept a chart, recording her tenure in each job, how much money she was responsible for, how many people she supervised and what she had accomplished.

When her husband told her he wanted to run a fruit farm in Bakersfield, Calif., Denise, who had joined Nestlé, told her boss, "The good news is I want to stay at Nestlé and the bad news is I have to move to Bakersfield."

"Where's Bakersfield?" he asked.

She reminded him that Carnation, which Nestlé had just acquired, had an ice-cream plant in Bakersfield. She set up her office there and made it Nestlé's national sales office for frozen/chilled foods.

But it took close to 20 years before Denise became general manager in charge of a business -- and she had to create the business she ran. A top sales executive at Nabisco by then, she wrote a business plan proposing a single-serve line of snacks. Former Nabisco CEO Jim Kilts liked the plan and put Denise in charge of what became known as the Down the Street devision. This single-serve snack division is now run by Kraft, which acquired Nabisco.

While Denise preferred the reach of big corporations, Maggie felt less pigeonholed and able to advance faster in smaller companies. "I didn't get stuck in any one area like finance or sales, which would have driven me crazy, and I could skip a few rungs at a time," says Maggie. So, in the late 1990s, she became CEO of Wink, a small start-up that was 10% owned by Microsoft Corp. But when Wink was sold, she was recruited by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to expand the computer giant's government and educational markets.

She stayed just two years, then in 2004 once again was helped by her contacts to jump to the corner office at Citizens, based in Stamford, Conn. She knew five of Citizens' directors because she had served on a board with them a decade earlier. Since taking charge, she has helped to recruit five women and an African-American to what had been an all-white, all-male board, "so it better reflects our customers," she says.

She and her husband now keep homes on both coasts. The Sullivan sisters all are married to men who accommodate their wives' careers and don't seem threatened by their spouses' achievements or job demands. Denise followed her husband to California, but he followed her back to the East Coast when she joined Nabisco. Colleen's and Andrea's spouses also moved with their wives as promotions took them around the country. Neither couple has children.

When the sisters are traveling for business, they sometimes stay at each others' homes. Denise is based in New Jersey; Maggie commutes between Connecticut and Northern California, where Colleen also lives; and Andrea is in Denver.

In the workplace, the sisters have had to outperform men, take jobs men didn't want and draw on the perseverance they learned as children. Andrea's chance to be a regional sales manager took her to Birmingham, Ala., when it was AT&T Wireless's worst-performing region. Three prior male managers had failed there. She went on sales calls with employees and purchased a ship captain's bell for the office. "Anytime anyone sold something, they rang the bell -- and even though it seemed hokey at first, it made people feel like winners," she says. In 10 months, the region went from last to first place.

The sisters continue to make their own opportunities, another lesson learned from their parents. When Denise was recruited to Campbell Soup in Camden, N.J., four years ago as head of global sales, she wouldn't sign on until she was assured she would soon be in line to head a big division.

Denise is now in charge of Campbell's $3 billion soup, sauces and beverage division in the U.S., the company's largest business, and her challenge is to revitalize old brands. She has reshuffled her senior team and is rolling out shopping carts of new products.

Known by some employees for having "an iron fist in a velvet glove," she never ends a meeting until her managers agree on a plan and deadlines. "I want to see volume growth in the next few weeks," she told the head of sales at a recent meeting.

What she really wants is to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company. It is a job just 10 women currently hold and one that would put her a notch ahead of Maggie, one of 23 women heading Fortune 1000 companies. "I've been preparing to run a big company all my life," says Denise.

Disappointments and disruptions in West Bengal - By Abhirup Sarkar, ISI, Kolkata

The Telegraph
Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Disappointments and disruptions in West Bengal


[The author is professor of economics, Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta]

Much has been written on the comparative growth performances of India and China, but few have actually emphasized the role of property rights in creating the observed differences. The classical development process, which entails a shift of resources from agriculture to industry and services, requires, among other things, transformation of arable land into cities, roads, factories and airports. This, in turn, involves displacing farmers from their land and traditional livelihood, creating social tensions, riots and turbulence. Weaker property rights and authoritarian governments make the transition easier, at least in the short run. They help to quicken the course of industrialization and urbanization by making a coercive process of land-grabbing by the government look semi-legal and by suppressing voices of protest. Indeed, no one can miss the obvious connection between the swift pace of industrialization in China, its rapidly transforming villages into modern metropolises and its loosely defined farmers’ property rights coupled with an autocratic government at the top.

Those who are entrusted with the important task of acquiring land for industrialization in India are probably realizing that the process of land acquisition here has got to follow a different path than that in China. For one thing, we have a democracy, however imperfect. And being a democracy, we have never fully capitulated our individual property rights to the faceless collective entity called the State. This, in turn, has made property rights deeper rooted in our country than in China. It has also made it mandatory for any economic transformation to go through the acid test of public consensus. More so for West Bengal where farmers were given user as well as ownership rights over land a couple of decades ago through carefully implemented land reforms. Now it will require a special effort to take those rights away from them.

How does one know if there is public support behind the recent land acquisition drive in West Bengal? How does one check if the farmers in Singur, Nandigram and other places are willing to part with their land? It is reasonable to assume that, barring a few possible exceptions, individuals do respond positively to price incentives. So if the prices are right, there is no reason why farmers, on an average, would object to the land acquisition move. This narrows down the query to the basic question: are the compensations announced so far by the government acceptable to the farmers?

Government sources reveal that in Singur an acre of Sali land — that is, land where a single crop is raised each year — is being offered a price of Rs 8.70 lakhs. For an acre of Suna or multi-cropping land, on the other hand, the compensation is Rs 12.76 lakhs. Is it enough compensation? If we put Rs 12.76 lakhs in a fixed deposit we can earn an annual interest of 8 per cent. This gives an annual return of Rs 1.02 lakhs or an income of Rs 8,500 per month, which is indeed a comfortable sum of money, more than double the income an acre of multi-cropping land can currently yield. So why should the owner disagree to sell his land?

One must realize that owing to inflation, while the real worth of Rs 8,500 will decay over time, the nominal income from land will keep on increasing roughly at the rate of average price-rise. Therefore, if the owner holds on to his land, he can hope to maintain his standard of living in future, but not so when he sells his land and keeps the money in a bank to earn interest. In other words, 8 per cent does not quite reflect future return on deposits; one has to subtract the rate of inflation from the nominal rate of return of 8 per cent to arrive at the real rate of return. The current rate of inflation is over 5 per cent. So subtracting this number from the nominal rate of return, one gets a real rate of return of 3 per cent. At this rate of return, the inflation-adjusted monthly income from a deposit of Rs 12.76 lakhs works out to be around Rs 3000, which is unlikely to exceed the current monthly income from an acre of multi-cropping land. Compensations, therefore, are not necessarily adequate.

One may add to this the predicament of the registered bargadar or sharecropper who is the actual tiller of the soil. A quarter of a century ago, land reforms had earned him a share of 75 per cent of the produce, provided he was prepared to bear the entire cost of cultivation, along with a guarantee that he would never be evicted from his land. The merciful masters of the state, however, are unable to keep their promise; the bargadar is now evicted from his land and he is being paid only 25 per cent of the sales proceeds. Indeed, if his rights over land were interpreted in the true spirit, he should have got 75 per cent and not 25 per cent of the compensation.

One may add further to this the condition of the unregistered bargadar and the landless labourers who have been promised nothing from the sales proceeds so far, and one would get a feel of the frustration and desperation prevailing in the villages where land is proposed to be acquired. Bargadars, registered and unregistered, and landless labourers constitute the overwhelming majority in the pool of village labour force.

But this is not the end of the story. Even to an owner-cultivator of the soil, land is worth much more than what its market value actually reflects. The market value merely reflects the sum of discounted incomes land can yield in future. But to the owner-cultivator, land is an entitlement to work. He would have remained partly unemployed over the year if he did not have any land. He would certainly like to get compensated for this benefit, in addition to the market price of land, when he is parting with his means of livelihood.

The crux of the matter is that a fierce competition is going on between the Indian states to attract private investment in an environment where fresh investment has an inclination to flow to already developed areas owing to increasing returns. The industrially disadvantaged regions like West Bengal are, therefore, competing with a handicap. In addition, the left rulers in Bengal have the task of undoing its past ill reputation of investor unfriendliness. All this, taken together, has the made the government somewhat over-zealous. Investors are being offered land at throwaway prices, so much so that the government has not been able to gather up the courage to reveal the actual price at which land is being handed over to the potential investors. But while one may accept the fact that at this initial stage of industrial take-off some subsidy needs to be given to the potential investors, it is not at all clear why the farmers should bear the burden of this subsidy. More so because the people displaced from their land and livelihood are among the least likely to benefit from industrialization at once.

Justice demands that the burden of subsidy be borne by those who are likely to derive an immediate gain out of it. This points to the privileged layer of the society which has the necessary education, skill and finance to take advantage of the emerging industrialization process. We propose that an industrial cess be temporarily imposed upon these people to mop up resources to finance the cost of industrialization and the displaced cultivators be offered a generous package of compensation and rehabilitation. This will not only be fair but also prudent, for it will reduce disappointments, discontents and disruptions.

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Arise Awake Stop not till the goal is reached. - Swami Vivekananda Swami ji is my inspiration, not as a monk but as a social reformer and for his universal-ism.