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A concession called SEZ, all for foreign exchange

Issue Date: Oct 31, 2006
Since the 1990s, India has had an economic regime that has placed a premium on privatising enterprise. Liberalisation and globalisation are keywords of this regime. The frenetic rush to globalise is in large measure motivated by the desire to earn foreign exchange at any cost. In recent times, special economic zones (sez) have become a key instrument to actualise this desire.

Another India is (not) ours

Issue Date: Oct 31, 2006
At a media-studded book release function, a leading editor was recounting a recent incident. He was travelling with a top Uttar Pradesh politician (who we will not name but call Mr A) in his brand new plane. The politician told him that the plane was a gift from a leading industrialist (who we will not name but call Mr AA). The editor was then told that the return gift by the politician was not meagre it was 1,000 hectares (ha) of prime agricultural land for a new special economic zone (sez). Hearing this tale, we in the audience smiled wisely.

High risk

Issue Date: Sep 30, 2004
Evam Piljain, an 80-year-old Toda who's spent all her life in Ooty, feels distraught at the sight of her hometown. "I cannot sit in the verandah anymore," she says. She moves to her drawing room and gazes wistfully at a photograph of Ooty taken in the early part of the twentieth century -- green, picturesque. But outside, hill after hill is chock-a-bloc with concrete buildings.

View from the top

Issue Date: Sep 30, 2004
Planning is non-existent for India's hill-stations, admit hill municipalities. In the absence of a master plan, a free-for-all situation prevails where one constructs wherever one finds free space; if there is lack of space, one can simply add another storey to one's house. There is no tourist plan, which becomes amply clear when total chaos prevails during the peak season.

Local travails

Issue Date: Sep 30, 2004
Incredible India. The land of mystic splendour. The hidden paradise. These are just three slogans to convince people to turn themselves into tourists and land up, every summer, in droves in hill-stations. Ooty's annual flower show attracts 0.2 million tourists over two days. In addition, it receives over 0.3 million tourists annually. Darjeeling annually receives close to 0.6 million tourists. Gangtok, a new entrant, gets more than 0.2 million tourists.

Defying gravity

Issue Date: Sep 30, 2004
When Darjeeling's population increased, a third lake with a capacity of 65.25 million litres was constructed by the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) in 1981. But due to faulty construction, it lies unused.

What goes down

Issue Date: Sep 30, 2004
The stinky spectacle of hill-stations getting buried under their own garbage is turning more real. Look down the slopes and you will see mounds of coloured plastic bags, and tourist staples such as empty packets of potato chips and plastic water bottles. All of which is mixed with vegetable waste and debris, making the piles taller by the day.

Imagining IEDP

Issue Date: Jul 31, 2004
The Union government hired the Indian Institute of Planning and Administration (IIPA), New Delhi, to chalk out an 'indicative plan', a proposal submitted by the government to the World Bank to launch formal negotiations, which the department of economic affairs took up with the Bank in 1994.

Lost in transit

Issue Date: Jul 31, 2004
Nimati Domohini village in the west of Buxa Tiger Reserve, West Bengal, is on a highway where a side road breaks off and leads to the reserve's Nimati range office seven kilometres away. But the village is miles away from realising the dreams dreamt by its 331-member eco-development committee (EDC) set up in 2001. Each committee member was allocated Rs 10,000.

Conserve or pickle?

Issue Date: Jul 31, 2004
Both the Forestry Research Education and Extension Project (FREEP) and its later, larger avatar, the India Eco-development project (IEDP) had a single objective: conserve biodiversity. What also made it a different form of rural development, quite unlike anything government had hitherto done, was the equal emphasis on improving the lives of people in tandem with the forest.
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