Many of you, particularly those who like old Hindi songs would be familiar with “badal jaye agar mali, chaman hota nahi khali, bahare phir bhi ati hai, bahare phir bhi aayengi, badal jaye agar mali chaman hota nahi khali”: lyrics from a hit 1966 song by Mahendra Kapoor with Rizvi’s lyrics. Alas, I don’t find it coming true in the context of West Bengal. Mali badalnay par bhi humara chaman hai khali, as post-2011 not much has changed by way of big industry coming in, other than big talk. If anything, it has been retrograde.
The SC judgement is being hailed, celebrated by the Hon’ble CM and her party, the TMC, but I see in it a pyrrhic victory. The Tatas aren’t coming back as they have set up the Nano factory elsewhere. Most of the land, even if it is returned to the farmers isn’t cultivatable any longer. It will take years and huge spends to make it arable again.
Blow for the Industry
Besides, the Tatas have several litigation pending and are able to claim refund of the monies paid to the state govt as liquidated damages. That will financially impact a state already in dire financial straits. While I digress, one of the prime reasons for the SC judgement is the changed stance of the state govt in the case; from defending the acquisition to undoing or opposing it post the change in political dispensation with the exit of the Left Front. What faith will business repose in government/s if there isn’t any continuity? Business invests for the long haul and political consistency is one thing that’s most sought.
What defines public purpose? Only a bridge or a road? Is it only a PSU that can serve the definition of “public purpose”? Can a private or joint sector enterprise not be included in the remit, if it is to lead the way to job creation, industrialisation and economic growth? Which is what the previous state govt and Tatas were all set to do. So many acquisitions made under Act 2 of the 1894 Act will be questioned in the light of the SC judgement and might well open a pandora’s box. I think this great political victory for the TMC and personally for Ms Mamta Banerjee is in reality a defeat for our CM and WB!