Chemical Engineer by profession
Director of Nandini Consultancy Centre Pvt. Ltd The Founder Trustee of Nandini Voice For The Deprived
The acquisition of land for setting up industrial projects have become highly controversial matter, involving socio economic implications , particularly for the people in the lower income group and farmers and the workers in the farms. The government has thought it necessary to enact special laws and regulations in acquiring land and deciding compensation amount payable for the acquired land.
In this context, it is necessary to examine as to whether the acquisition of land in the present scale for setting up industrial projects is necessary at all. The following facts need to be kept in view and thought about carefully.
Is it Industry versus Agriculture?
While hundreds of acres of agricultural land are sought to be converted into industrial land for setting up projects, there have been no occasion when the existing industrial land has been proposed for conversion to agricultural land. This obviously implies that the Government and the investors believe that there would be nothing wrong if industrial growth would take place at the cost of agricultural growth.
In the last few decades, thousands of agricultural lands have been lost as they were acquired for industrial purposes. There is need to introspect carefully as to whether more automobiles should be produced by converting the land hitherto producing wheat , rice or vegetables.
Welfare of weaker sections
The process of acquiring agricultural land for industrial purpose, inevitably results in uprooting the economic livelihood of thousands of poor families.
No doubt, compensations are offered to tempt the farmers to give up their land but with the inflation and eroding rupee, the real value of the compensation amount becomes less than half before too long. Further, while converting such agricultural land, it should be kept in view that while the compensation is paid to the owners of the land, there are large numbers of agricultural workers who have been working in the land and they would permanently lose their employment opportunities.
While economic growth due to industrialization is cited as the justification for acquiring land for industrial purposes , the loss of economic growth due to cessation of agricultural operations are yet to be studied and quantified and the negative impact assessed on national scale. A cost benefit analysis is likely to make it clear that productive agricultural operations would contribute to greater measure of overall socio economic growth of the country than using the same piece of land for industrial purposes in many cases.
Wasted industrial land
As the government and industrial houses are setting up new special economic zones and industrial estates, what about the land that have already been acquired for industrial purposes and remaining wasted now?
It is well known that around 50% of the industries already set up in small, medium or large scale sector have become sick due to one reason or the other, belonging to diverse sectors such as light engineering, heavy engineering, chemical, pharmaceuticals, textiles etc. There are many industrial units across the country that have been remaining closed for more than ten years now with wasted land, building in bad shape and rusted equipment. Such units look like ghost centres.
Many instances can be readily cited. For example, in SIPCOT industrial estate in Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu, a project known as Indag Products Ltd. has been remaining closed for over fifteen years now occupying more than 30 acres. At the same time, SIPCOT, a government of Tamil Nadu undertaking is seeking to acquire more agricultural land in Cuddalore area for creating new industrial estate!
A nationwide survey is yet to be carried out to assess the extent of such wasted land available in the existing industrial estates and industrial zones in the country.
When there are many sick industries remaining closed for several years occupying huge area of land , why not such wasted land be put to use for setting up new industrial projects , instead of taking the painful route of converting valuable agricultural land into industrial land.
Need for sensible government policy
It is necessary that the government of India and state governments should apply their mind to this task of not letting the industrial land remain unutilized for unduly long time, for whatever may be the reasons.
A policy decision should be taken that any industrial land remaining unutilized or with inoperative factory should be acquired by the government and sold in public auction. The government would be able to come across thousands of acres of land and industrial sheds that can be brought back to the effective industrial use. This would bring down drastically the need for acquiring agricultural land for industrial purposes, which are becoming counterproductive and in many cases even appear to be foolish.