Need for more pragmatic policies to harmonize development
The present Central Government is presently seen as a very arrogant Government, which wants to somehow push through legistlation, even if such legislation is against the interests of several thousands or hundreds of thousands of people. The haste with which the Land Acquisition Bill was sought to be introduced, without the appropriate safeguards to farmers, was something that was not seen for a very long time.
Why is the Government at the Centre so adamant, in the name of "development?". Its allies are no better. Some thousands of fertile land have gone into making the new capital of Andhra Pradesh, near Vijayawada. How is this possible? Even when the farmers raised a hue and cry, the Chief Minister, Mr Chandrababu Naidu was as arrogant as ever, and wanted to push his pet project through.
What did the poor farmer get in return? THE HINDU has reported that the figure is only Rs.50,000/- per acre. Is this not loot of a tall order? The news is that the farm lands surrounding the proposed Capital, are now selling at rates that have already gone through the roof. So, how can the common man ever think of living here? How can the poor afford to have a roof over their head, even if the Capital city has all the amenities?
Look at what has already happened to Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai and even Hyderabad. Slums have multiplied, only because the poor have never been able to afford even the cheapest accommodation available, even one hundred kilometers away. For instance, at Achharapakkam, a suburb of Chennai -- which will become part of Chennai within the next ten years -- land is available at Rs.300 per square foot.
But where is this place? One hundred kilometers from the heart of the city. A booming metropolis, "market forces" and what have you. This is the sorry state of affairs, whenever huge development takes place.
Even in Tamil Nadu, the South of Tamil Nadu, is vastly neglected. Only Chennai and Coimbatore are truly industrial cities. These are two cities with th fastest rates of growth as well. However, what is needed is a true balance. In South Tamil Nadu, for instance, a huge number of agro based industries can open up a number of jobs for the youth and the service sector that will grow as a natural consequence, will take care of the uneducated but skilled youth, for there is plenty of employment opportunities for fitters, welders, carpenters, electricians, motor mechanics and so on.
However, till date, the Tamil Nadu Government -- the present and the previous ones as well -- have never been able to understand the true needs of this region.
Economic development should not destroy nature. If nature is destroyed, the consequences can be disastrous. For example, in the Western Ghats, at a place called Ettimadai, near Coimbatore city, a deemed University with tremendous political influence has acquired vast tracks of land that extend right upto the mountains and places of abode of elephants. These poor elephants have not been able to find good water to survive and are now forced to venture into residential areas, creating a torried time for common people.
Yes, no doubt, the teachers and the non-teaching staff are employed, and there is some tertiary sector growth as well, but what has happened to nature, to the environment? Why was this Deemed University, allowed to occupy such land? There is no answer.
There should be balance between economic growth and nature. When huge lands are acquired from farmers, the poor farmers have nothng to eat after a while. The entire area becomes an urban jungle, and the rich and the famous benefit, but the common man is left to the lurch.
So, every State Governemnt should compulsoily reserve areas of one hundred acreas or more, in the suburbs, and give away such land or build simple but functional houses for the lowest middle class and the poor, and also provide transport to the poor, to have access to the city. This is presently done only to a very limited extent. For instance, in Tamil Nadu, there is a slum clearnance Board, but this has now become one of the most corrupted boides in the country.
"Market forces" cannot determine every single agenda of growth, particularly in the cities. We need pragmatic policies. For instance, in Chennai, there are Amma Canteens serving food at very cheap prices to the urban poor. This is a very good scheme. However, it should be noted that the huge subsidy has eaten away all the Chennai Corporation resources and new roads, new streetlights, and so on, are never possible. This is because of the huge subsidies.
Instead, the Tamil Nadu Government could have approached each and every IT company present in th State, and every manufacturing group like the TVS group to run atleast six canteens each. With their vast resources, these groups would have happily done that, with the help of voluntary groups, as part of their Corporae Social Responsibility. But this has not happened.
So, what we need is a very urgent priority to balance growth and the environment. Even in matters of training, there does not seem to be a big direction. If the training agencies go to the interior villages and identify youth willing to be tained, several hundreds of youth can be trained -- very willingly -- as carpenters, or electricians or motor mechanics. This has still not happened, even when there is the National Skill Development Corporation very much in place.
Something should be done very urgently, and what are the policies needed? There should a big national debate on all these matters and planners, enviornmentalists, educationists and lawyers, should all be involved, instead of contantly groping in the dark. The time to act is now. Tomorrow may be very late.
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