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Let’s stand together for the cause of sustainable development

By GovernanceToday
In Issue 8
May 4, 2016

Tata Motors Nano projectRecently, I read in a newspaper that “factories in Sanand are faced with an unusual HR problem – how to handle crorepati labourers.” This reminded me of the high-profile political agitation and the ensuing hue and cry to stop the Tata Motors Nano Car factory to come up in Singur.

Tata Motors Nano project (2006) faced political controversy from the very beginning on the issue of government of West Bengal’s purported forceful acquisition of fertile land of villagers, and the locals’ fear for their livelihood after losing their fertile land. These agitating farmers were supported by the then opposition political party—now in power, as well as NGOs, environmental activists and urban intellectuals.

Even though Tata Motors had built a huge infrastructure for the Nano Car in Singur, due to the aggressive resistance and escalated hostility, it decided in October 2008 to move out of Singur and to relocate the Nano Car plant in Sanand, Gujarat. The Government of Gujarat acquired land for the Project without much opposition, paying about four times the market rate, which was almost impossible for them to earn during their life time. It was reported that it took just about ten days for the Gujarat Government to work out the deal. The first Nano Car rolled out of the Sanand factory in June 2010. For Tata Motors, Singur was a hostile ground whereas Sanand was conducive.

Many villagers in Sanand suddenly became ‘King Midas’ through the hefty compensation they received by selling their land. They became crorepatis overnight; luxury cars outside their houses indicating the new found prosperity! The place itself transformed it into an industrial/ auto hub. Many ancillary units also came up in the region. So far, more than 400 companies, like Ford, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Magna International, Cadilla Health Care, Hitachi Colgate-Palmolive, various Real Estate developers, etc. have set up their units/offices in and around Sanand. Further, it has attracted commitments of billions of US dollars in investments from some of world’s largest companies. Almost ten banks have opened branches in the village after the Nano project.

In West Bengal, though the new regime came to power ending the about 34-years old regime riding on the popular pro-farmer campaign; the land acquisition case is still pending before the Supreme Court and the economic fate of farmers in Singur remain dismal. The villagers seem to be uncertain about their future.

The land-related agitations threaten to wreck the industrialization process, and that the India’s industry and investment friendly image gets a beating. It is high time for us to learn lessons from the past and make sure to avoid similar issues in future.

The growth can be achieved with the core belief that the fruits of growth and development must reach the weakest, most deprived and remotest of people. Furthermore, government should place sustainability at the centre of thoughts and actions, working on the principle that inclusive growth cannot be limited by the barriers of time and space – it has to be built on the foundations of the past, leverage on the opportunities of the present, and preserve if not enhance resources for the future.

Economists have used the term sustainable development in an attempt to clarify the balance between economic growths and conservation and protection of environment. Sustainable development refers to “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generation.”

Our planet needs green growth and gainful employment opportunities for millions of the people who currently live in poverty but rightly aspire to a better and prosperous future and to ensure decent living standards for the generations to come.

Dr Jitendra K Das | The writer is the Director of FORE School of Management, New Delhi