SEZs and socialism

Published: Thursday 31 January 2008

the Goa chief minister's unwillingness to allow special economic zones (sez s)in his state must have mildly zapped his central colleagues (see p 24). Has he become a socialist? Doesn't he aspire for his state? But what Digambar Kamat did was to please his electorate; his energy has deflated the commerce ministry and it seems Goa sez s are going to be denotified. We must ask: so it is easy to get rid of the idea of sez, right? There are anti- sez protests in every state, against special treatment to industrialists whose interests amount to creating private states within the union of India, propelled primarily by farmers. Outbursts usually dealt with violent forces, gunshots. How come the Goa cm responded positively?

Protesters in Goa speak in English, and have a large middle class component of those who have seen their land ravaged by mining and property developers. Opposition in other states is 'vernacular', led by poor farmers the state and a section of media can volubly dismiss as an inarticulate lot. They don't understand growth, is the buzz. (Please note rich farmers are protected; the survey post never springs up on their land.)

All chief ministers are intelligent enough to realize that providing free electricity and water at a discount to industries that will generate very little local employment will not bring much prosperity to their state. But the game goes on. Trashing subsidy to agriculture is a shame. For all efforts are to prove agriculture unviable, and hand over precious natural resource to private developers.

Fortunately, the great Indian social set-up is not unidirectional (see p 28-34). Hiware Bazar has proved the rural economy can be so profitable that it brings all villagers, who had earlier fled to cities, back. They have done this by simply using a state-run programme, the Employment Guarantee Scheme (egs), a small amount, creatively, just conserving soil and water. The small egs money is good enough to turn one-fourth of the village into millionnaires. They reckon the dignity of prosperity lies in collectively creating and then harvesting bountiful capital, a model the exact opposite of giving away precious natural resources to private profiteers at a devalued rate.

It is not surprising that the centre, in response to a supreme court question, has validated 'socialism' in the constitution (p 11). Outside the preamble, official policies irrespective of political hue prove otherwise. It is absurd that the rhetoric of socialism has become good ad copy for the state.

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