Apr 25, 2015

Nehru was wrong. Why only poor, why can't the rich be also asked to sacrifice for the sake of country's development?




Political leaders only expect the poor tribals to make a sacrifice for the sake of country's development. The rich are allowed to enjoy the fruits of development. They should not make any sacrifice !

In the midst of a highly polarized and surcharged political debate on the controversial land bill, the NDA government is reportedly planning to use quotes from Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi speeches to justify the need to displace farmers, tribals and poor for the sake of development. That underlying argument is: the poor must sacrifice for the sake of the country’s progress.

Soon after India attained Independence, Nehru had laid the foundation stone for the Hirakud dam over the Mahanadi river in 1948. Speaking on the occasion, Nehru had said: “If you have to suffer, you should do so in the interest of the country.”

I don’t agree. After all, why should it be always the poor who have to make a sacrifice for the sake of development? When was the last time you heard of any sacrifice being made by the middle class or for that matter the rich for the sake of country’s economic development? Does it not mean that the burden of development is solely borne by the poor while the rich eat the fruits and that without any remorse or guilt about the destruction wrought on the livelihood security of millions of underprivileged? Many generations have been lost in the continuing struggle by the displaced for getting their legitimate dues.

What probably Nehru did not visualize was that many of those who were displaced in 1948 by the Hirakud dam have still not been rehabilitated 68 years later. According to a study, some of those displaced were uprooted twice again to make way for some other development activities. Even a large number of those ousted from Bhakra dam, Tehri dam and Pong dam – the ‘modern temples’ as Nehru would call them -- have not been rehabilitated so far. I am not against the big dams or similar industrial projects, but how can the State and the society remain a mute spectator to the plight and suffering of those who were forcibly displaced? Why should they not be compensated and rehabilitated on a priority?

A 2011 study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, had pegged the number of displaced by dams, mines, industrial projects, wildlife sanctuaries/national parks at 50 million over the past 50 years. Several other estimates show that only a third of those displaced have been adequately rehabilitated so far.

Not only big dams and industrial corridors, land for railway tracks, roads, highways and electricity lines too have displaced farmers. Such is the callous attitude that the District Session Judge in Una in Himachal Pradesh recently had to order attachment of the Jan Shatabadi train to force Indian Railway to cough up the compensation amount to farmers whose land was acquired way back in 1998. All across the country, there are umpteen such examples where an indifferent State continues to harangue and harass the poor for their legitimate dues.

While the popular narrative conveniently blames farmers for coming in the way of country’s economic growth process, the government will never dare to acquire even a portion of the vast stretches of a golf course. You will see how the rich will force the government to retreat. Ask the government employees to forgo even one single installment of the Dearness Allowance in a year to help the government in balancing its fiscal act and you will see the employees resort to mass protest. At a time when the country needs investments, and is scouting for FDI, will it ever be possible to appeal to the government employees to forgo the 7th Pay Commission Award? And why not? 

Corporate India has been given a mammoth subsidy – categorized as tax concessions – to the tune of Rs 42-lakh crore since 2004-05. I sometimes wonder why can’t India Inc be asked to pay taxes (and not seek exemptions) to help the government in putting that money into the hands of farmers, and for rural development activities. Isn’t it the duty of the rich and the well-to-do to also make a sacrifice for the sake of country’s development? At least, India Inc can be asked to pay Rs 5.9-lakh crore in exempted taxes this financial year so as to wipe out the country’s worrying fiscal deficit of Rs 5.25 lakh crore. This money can be then used for country’s development. 

Nehru was wrong. It’s not only farmers and tribals who must sacrifice for the sake of development.
ABPLive.in http://goo.gl/tGk6cR April 25, 2015

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