Customs officers scared of pursuing enquiries against Adani Group


Customs officers scared of pursuing enquiries against Adani Group
June 02

India Samvad Bureau

New Delhi : Has the Directorate of Revenue Intellligence (DRI) ceased all enquiries into Adani global, the overseas company owned by corporate giant Gautam Bhai Adani ?  Or the Customs and Revenue Intelligence officials are scared of Adani-Modi closeness and therefore have developed cold feet in pursuing such enquiries and intelligence gathering.

Sources said that DRI’s overseas intelligent unit COIN (Custom Overseas Intelligence Network) has been gathering information on dealings of Adani Global FZE located at Jabel Ali, Dubai. The COIN had passed several crucial inputs relating to evasion of Customs duty to DRI by overseas companies of Adani,  but of late such enquiries has been ceased.

The ADG of  DRI in Mumbai,  PK Dass  has also been silenced by the Customs top authorities on the matter. ADG had unearthed a huge racket of over and under invoicing relating to import of machines by Adani group. On the basis of ADG DRI’s report the CBI also registered an enquiry into Adani Group. However when Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister of India, the customs were asked to go slow on probe against matters related to Adani, sources said.

Sources said on the tip off from COIN UAE, the agency was investigating gross overvaluation of import of equipment and machinery by various entities of Adani Group from a UAE-based intermediary. Sources within the agencies revealed that more than Rs 2,000 crore had been “siphoned off “. “An amount of Rs 2,322.75 crore has been siphoned off abroad by Adani Group by resorting to over-valuation of imports in the name of various group firms,” a report of the DRI says.

The companies being investigated for over-valuation of imports are PMC Projects (India), Adani Enterprises Limited, Adani Renewable Energy, Adani Hazira Port Pvt Ltd, Adani International Container Terminal Pvt Ltd and Adani Vizag Coal Terminal Pvt ltd,”says the report.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence  summoned Vinod Shantilal Adani as well two Dubai-based individuals, Mitesh Dani and Jatin Shah.

The Adani Group and its firms have not declared the correct value of imports and a show-cause notice is being issued under Sections 111 and 113 of the Customs Act, 1962. All top officials, including the Adanis themselves, were to be questioned by the DRI.

On the other hand a report earlier published in business newspaper says that on this matterr  Adani Group had declined to respond. However a person close to the business house claimed it was the victim of a “witch-hunt” being conducted by the Congress during UPA rule against Adani who was perceived close to Modi. “We are facing extraordinary harassment. Old cases are being opened up and notices are being sent on a daily basis. In the DRI matter, no formal notice has come so far,” said the person close to the group. In November 2013, the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC) had reminded the Directorate General of Foreign Trade, part of the commerce ministry, to cancel import duty benefits issued to the Adani Group in 2004.

These benefits — essentially the right to import at concessional rates — were issued under the Target Plus Scheme, an export incentive which has since been discontinued. The person close to the Adani Group referred to CBEC’s reminder as an example of old cases being revived.A number of DRI officials strongly defended their investigation, claiming to have unearthed substantial evidence of what they referred to as “money-laundering” by way of over-valuation of imports.

http://indiasamvad.co.in/achche-din-for-gautam-bhai-customs-officers-scared-of-pursuing-enquiries-against-adani-group/

Why We Protested Against Narendra Modi


 Narandra Modi's Vibrant Gujarat Story: Propaganda vs Fact #mustread

By P. K. Vijayan & Karen Gabriel

09 June, 2013
Countercurrents.org

The past few days have witnessed the grand spectacle of Narendra Modi emerging as the front-runner for the post of Prime Minister, from the Bharatiya Janata Party. Our growing sense of dismay and foreboding at this spectacle has however, led to some annoyance, the essential refrain of which is, ‘Why not Modi? Why are you so hostile to him? Look at what he’s achieved in Gujarat – maybe it’s time he was given a chance to do the same for India….’ We were immediately reminded of how we were met with the same response when Modi came to Delhi University on 6 February 2013, and we protested.

At the time, he had visited Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) in the University, ostensibly to deliver a lecture on ‘vikas’ (progress) and ‘development’. We, along with many others, stood outside SRCC throughout his talk, protesting peacefully but vehemently against him. The Delhi Police repeatedly lathi-charged us, used water-cannoning, and (in open collusion with ABVP activists) indulged in extremely communal and sexually violent abuse and molestation of the female protestors. Nine of the protestors (including one of us) were gratuitously charged under various sections of the IPC and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984, with rioting armed with deadly weapons, obstructing public servants, assaulting public servants, damaging property, etc. That matter is pending investigation with the office of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.

Why did this happen? Because we protested against Narendra Modi. At that time too, several colleagues, students and sundry well-wishers expressed bafflement: while they were sympathetic to us for what had happened with the police, they couldn’t understand why we were protesting in the first place. After all, Modi was just coming to deliver a lecture on development, and, as they saw it, he too surely had the right to freedom of speech. What, they asked, was the harm in listening to him? The subtle, implicit accusation was, we had it coming – and on two counts: one, because we ‘hypocritically’ violated our own principles by seeking to deny Modi his freedom of speech; and two, because we protested his airing his views on ‘development’. Let’s deal with the second count first.

Presumably, we would have been forgiven if we had been protesting against Modi for making say, an explicitly communal speech, or defending the carnage of 2002. Not for one moment did it cross our interlocutors’ minds that Modi speaking on ‘development’ was, in fact the implicit defence of that carnage. Here was a man projected in several quarters, not least in the business community that SRCC is so strongly connected to, as the future Prime Minister of India. This ‘lecture’ was his first major public event since this projection began: did they seriously expect that he would come to make incendiary communal speeches, just when he is being projected as Prime Ministerial material now? Obviously not!

But does that mean that the Modi of Gujarat 2002 has vanished, because he won’t talk that way – or even talk about it? Has the man responsible for the deaths of Muslims on a scale tantamount to genocide suddenly been absolved of that sin because he now speaks only of ‘vikas’? And ‘vikas’ for whom? Blatantly corrupt corporates and business houses? There are reports that the Gujarat government has lost thousands of crores of rupees in land sold to industrial houses like the Tatas, Essar and the Adani Group way below its market cost. According to the Planning Commission’s Suresh Tendulkar Committee, Gujarat has the fastest growing poverty rate in the country. There is ample evidence to show that, on major indices of human development, taken individually and together, like literacy, life expectancy, infant mortality, etc., states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have done far better than Gujarat – but there is no call to promote these states as models of development. 44.6% of children under five in Gujarat suffer from malnutrition; the maternal mortality rate stands at 172/lakh, which is extremely high; sex ratios are far below the national average; the poverty rate in tribal areas is as high as 57% – one can go on rattling off the figures, but the point is clear: ‘development’ in Gujarat is neither particularly phenomenal, nor has it touched the masses.

No, the reason why Gujarat is being promoted is because Modi has wooed and welcomed big business investment on an unprecedented scale in Gujarat. This means big funding for his party as well: the BJP will be suitably and generously rewarded by the Tatas and Ambanis who are being fawned on so assiduously by Modi. Combine this with his well-known ability to rabble rouse through war-mongering, hate-speech and general communal machismo, and you have a lethal new political soft pornography. It continuously suggests, without making any explicit connections, that Modi’s communal machismo is what is needed for genuine ‘vikas’. It weaves a general discourse of ‘development’ as rampant privatization, through which big business brings malls full of consumer goods, high-tech cities with gated colonies and huge inflows of foreign direct investments. Just as soft porn offers an endless supply of sameness disguised as variety, but incites desire for this nonetheless by perpetually presenting it as exclusive, yet tantalizingly available – so too, this model of development generates a powerful illusion of choice and promotes it as exclusive, privileged, available only through investment in the new economy. And Gujarat 2002 flickers through it as the subliminal hardcore pornography of this discourse – gutted houses, dismembered bodies, raped and murdered women, slashed wombs spilling chopped foetuses, terror-filled faces screaming for mercy.

These images of the full fury of state power unleashed provide an important, implicit and tacit guarantee to big business: that as long as Modi is in control, and in their pockets, they need fear no unrest from the masses they will oppress and exploit, because Modi’s state has shown that it is more than capable of acting without any restraint whatsoever – legal, ethical, moral or constitutional. The message is clear, and from all evidence, thrilling to large sections of the middle classes: if you want to enjoy the luxuries of ‘development’, as tailored by wholesale privatization, somewhat paradoxically, you need a state that shows itself to be strong enough to push that through – violently, vehemently, viciously. Economic might is made possible, and accompanied, by brute force, and the thrilling, ego-boosting, endless middle class desire for that might is fully fulfilled in Modi’s display of force. This is what marks Modi’s promotion of the same economic model practiced by the Congress, as different: the latter is perhaps as communal as the BJP, but it still hesitates to communalize these same economic policies as openly as Modi’s Gujarat did. Which also means that if the Modi model gains ground, the Congress will not hesitate to adopt it – effectively intensifying both the communalist and neo-liberalist tendencies that are already seeping through our socio-polity.

This is what we were protesting against. Modi on ‘development’ is not separate – and must not be separated – from Modi on Muslims/Christians/communists. Modi on ‘development’ is as dangerous and poisonous as Modi on the need for genocide. Promoting Modi in Delhi University was an audacious initiative, aimed at testing his acceptability in a space like the university that is, by definition, supposed to be a progressive, democratic, secular space. We now know better. The university not only gave SRCC consent to invite Modi, but also permitted the deployment of a huge police force on campus, armed not just with lathis and the occasional side-arm (as would have been the case in the not-too distant past), but astoundingly, with assault rifles, a water cannon and even a few machine guns! The university administration was clearly not only signalling acceptability to Modi, they were rolling out the red carpet of the bruised and beaten bodies of protestors for him. And if the university can be successfully sold the idea that Modi is selling ‘development’, and therefore will be allowed to address the university community, even if protest has to be openly and brutally crushed for that, then the rot has set in far more than we had gauged.

Which brings us back to the first allegation – that we are denying Modi the right to free speech, which we ourselves insist on so vehemently. The ingenuousness of this argument is matched only by its convenience. Modi is the last person who needs someone rushing to his defence, to exercise free speech or anything else. Let us for the moment forget that he has never himself been a defender of this right. Let us remember instead some other things we forget when we make such an argument. We forget that freedom of speech is no abstract, absolute freedom but has restrictions on it that are also constitutionally pressed. We forget that the right to protest against Modi is as much a matter of freedom of speech; Modi’s right in this regard is neither superior to, nor more valid than ours. We forget that freedom of speech is not just a legal provision but is above all a political provision. We forget that, as a political provision, freedom of speech must necessarily be understood and exercised in the political context in which it is invoked. (If this was not the case, and if freedom of speech was an absolute right, all forms of hate speech, obscenity and other inflammatory discourse could happily take recourse to this and spew venom with impunity.) In this case, the context is crystal clear: Modi the Hindutva leader was selling ‘development’ as his political ride, from a communal-fascist Chief Ministership to a communal-fascist Prime-Ministership. We protested against Modi’s coming, therefore, on principled political grounds, without hate-speech or obscenity – but that is what we were rewarded with by the police and Modi supporters.

It is true that in this particular instance, Modi’s lecture on ‘development’ was unlikely to attract any of the constitutional restrictions on free speech. But, as we have already argued, the political context is vital in understanding the limitations of free speech. Which is why, in a context in which Modi is being openly promoted as the next Prime Ministerial candidate from the BJP, Modi on ‘development’ is as sinister as the openly communal Modi. ‘Development’ is the Trojan horse that Modi (and the BJP) is hiding inside, to ride to Prime-Ministership This is what we were protesting against. And in the heart of Delhi University, we found a quick, small replay of what happened in Gujarat in 2002: the police joined hands with the supporters of Modi to wreak vengeance against the protestors. This is the sign of the India that will unfold under Modi, and this is what we were protesting against. What is at stake is the idea of India itself, and if that is an idea worth protesting about, then many more of us should be protesting against Narendra Modi.

Dr. Karen Gabriel, Assoc. Prof., Dept. of English, St.Stephen’s College, Delhi University. Dr. Karen Gabriel has been writing extensively on cinema, nationalism, gender, and sexuality. She has been actively engaging especially with questions of state violence, repression, democratic rights, etc.

Dr. P. K. Vijayan, Asst. Prof., Dept. of English, Hindu College, Delhi University. He has written on masculinity and nationalism, and has been actively involved in addressing the policy change in higher education initiated with Delhi University. They have co-authored several pieces on various issues.

 

Gujarat- The Great Land Grab


May 17, 2013 Cover Story, Frontline

Show Caption

1 / 5

StartStop
  • Mango farmers at a protest meeting at Mithivirdi village, Bhavnagar, Gujarat on May 25, 2011.
  • Farmers at work and, in the background, the Sosiya-Alang ship-breaking yard, near Mithivirdi village.
  • A farmer checks the bumper yield of onions near the proposed Nirma cement plant project at Mahuva on March 3.
  • A boy grazes his cattle near the Tata Nano car plant in Sanand.
  • Building a road near a proposed car plant in Sanand. A file photograph.

The Gujarat “development” model depends on acquiring, often forcibly, huge tracts of land and making them available at below market prices to industries, destroying village economy and fraternity. By AJOY ASHIRWAD MAHAPRASHASTA in Gujarat

Shakti Singh, the sarpanch of Jaspara village in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, is an affluent farmer. On an ordinary day, he spends most of his time shuttling between Bhavnagar town and the 10 hectares of mango gardens owned by his family, sorting out the logistics of selling his farm produce for the best price. Storing the mangoes, employing people to work on his fields, dealing with traders and middlemen, and promoting and modernising agriculture in his area are some of the tasks that consume most of his time. The best-quality Kesar, the local mango variety of this region, is all exported to the United States and Russia and other European countries. At the end of the year he makes around Rs.8 lakh from his mangoes. Those who work on his fields on contract earn about Rs.3 lakh annually. The sale of vegetables, cashew nuts and coconuts through the year helps Shakti Singh and his workers make some extra money without too much investment or work.

However, in the last few months, Shakti Singh has been busy preparing court papers and holding public meetings. The proposed nuclear plant in the area would not only eat up most of his farms but would rid the entire region of its affluence. Known as the Mithivirdi Nuclear Energy Project, it will be the biggest nuclear plant in the country with a proposed capacity of 6,000 MW at an initial projected cost of Rs.64,000 crore. However, if the project goes through, it will directly affect 15,000 people in 24 villages. More than 1.5 lakh people in 152 villages in the region will be indirectly affected owing to the plant’s possible environmental hazards. Farmers in this area will lose their lands and a large number of landless labourers will lose their employment.

The entire economy of the area depends on farming. Everyone is involved in some process or the other relating to mango and coconut farming. And it is for this reason that Shakti Singh is not alone in the struggle to retain agricultural lands. At least 5,000 people from the villages in the vicinity have been part of the struggle ever since the project was announced in 2010. The public hearing on March 5, 2012, saw a massive turnout by villagers wearing black bands on their heads, but they were denied a chance to speak against the project.

While the nuclear plant itself is a Central project funded by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, the responsibility for land acquisition, environmental clearances and other bureaucratic procedures lies with the Narendra Modi-led State government. Activists and residents of the village claim that the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report prepared for the project has not been made public despite repeated requests. The Gujarat government has stated that the area is safe for a nuclear project and that the land needed for the project is classified as “wasteland” as it falls along the coastline of the Gulf of Khambhat, rendering it too saline for agriculture.

Fertile belt

However, contrary to the State government’s claims, the area is one of the most fertile ones in Gujarat. Most of the land along the coastline of Gujarat is protected by limestone walls that absorb the salt from the sea water and release pure and sweet water in the adjoining areas for up to 50 kilometres. This phenomenon makes the land along the coastline so fertile that the farmers of the area could go for intensive cropping three times a year. The government has always ignored such facts.

It is because of such wilful ignorance that the second-biggest ship-breaking yard in the world, the hazardous impact of which is fairly well-known, was developed only two kilometres from Jaspara and Mithivirdi. This correspondent noticed black and brown sea water throughout the Jaspara coast as a result of the ship-breaking that was done over the last 40 years.

Shakti Singh and other villagers foresee a complete collapse of the region’s ecosystem and that is why the movement against the nuclear project and land acquisition has been intense. However, the Gujarat government in the last 15 years has not only ignored such demands from the people, but also actively assisted corporate giants in destroying ecosystems in the name of “industrial growth”. The special economic zone (SEZ) at Mundra in the Rann of Kutch, developed by the Adani group, is an example of how bureaucratic processes can be manipulated to suit corporate interests.

The Mundra SEZ, spread over 10,000 hectares, being developed as a port and a special trading zone, has already displaced 56 fishing villages and 126 settlements. Not only have the fishermen lost their customary rights as a result of this development, but the farming villages in the area have also been stripped off their livelihood. Against the regulations of the Forest Rights Act, 2,008.41 hectares of forest land was cleared to set up a salt washery and a desalination plant. The Gujarat government did not respond to the protests of the local people and maintained that the land given to the Adani group was “wasteland”. Today, the fishermen fear that when the port becomes fully functional soon, they will not be given any access to the sea.

Based on complaints from the people of the area, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests set up a committee to inquire into possible environmental and livelihood violations. The committee report that came out in April 2013 listed several instances of non-compliance with procedures. It found that the public hearing was bypassed and construction activities had not only polluted the sea but destroyed 75 hectares of mangrove forests on which a large number of families depended. More than the farmers, the Dalits and Muslims who earned their livelihood by making coal from the region’s scrub forests have lost their source of income. Over 560 hectares of land in 14 villages has already been acquired, endangering the livelihoods of fishermen, agriculturists, horticulturists and livestock rearers.

According to a report prepared jointly by the Ahmedabad-based non-governmental organisations—the Behavioural Science Centre, the People in Centre and the Paryavaran Mitra—the Adani group was given over 5 crore square metres of land along the coast at paltry rates ranging from Re.1 to Rs.32 a square metre when the market rate was over Rs.1,500 a square metre. The Adani group got the land for industrial use and port development, but it sold/leased out a significant portion of it to other corporate groups, flouting norms. Leasing out or selling such acquired land is illegal according to the purchase deed.

Mundra and Bhavnagar are not the only cases in point. Gujarat under Modi has done the maximum amount of land acquisition for industrial use and Modi has successfully projected the process as a “win-win situation” for both the farmers and the industries and has tried to project it as the ideal model for land acquisition. The State government’s propaganda is based on three factors. One, the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) already has enough land to spare, which is why a large “land bank” already exists; two, the Modi government has been compensating farmers at the existing high market rates; and three, the industrial development has been taking place on arid land along the coastline, which, anyway, was not of much use.

The third factor, as can be seen from empirical evidence, is a brazen lie to suit corporate interests and is fraught with many inconsistencies. The first, about a land bank, is partially true. The GIDC acquired land in the 1980s for two purposes. It was supposed to give some of the reserve land to the landless so that they could earn their livelihood, and its primary function was to promote small- and medium-scale industries. Out of the 262 industrial estates under the GIDC, 182 are functional and most of these have been given to big corporate groups instead of empowering cooperative units in villages. Allocating land to the landless still remains a dream. Narendra Modi has used the GIDC primarily to facilitate the entry of big industrial projects. For example, the Tata Nano project, when it was ousted from West Bengal, set its base in Sanand near Ahmedabad on Modi’s invitation. The 440 ha of land that it got from the Gujarat government was part of the GIDC pool that carried out agricultural research. Since the Tata group demanded 960 ha, the GIDC acquired land in seven surrounding villages. Questions were raised when the GIDC blatantly brokered deals for the Tata group. During Modi’s regime, the GIDC has continued to acquire more land throughout Gujarat for industrial purposes. Sanand is set to become an automobile hub. Following the Tatas, the Ford group has already established a unit and Maruti has also expressed an interest, owing to continuing workers’ unrest at its plant in Manesar, Haryana.

Many farmers complain that the GIDC bought land from them in the 1980s for “public” purposes and it was not supposed to sell it to industrial groups. Since it is now selling these plots to industrial groups at current market rates to earn huge profits, the farmers feel cheated. Legally, the GIDC should have returned the acquired land within five years to the farmers if it was unsuccessful in developing these areas.

Half truths

Moreover, Modi’s claim of “good compensation” is only a half-truth. While in areas like Sanand his government acquired land at market prices, areas such as Kutch and Saurashtra have seen worse forms of forcible acquisition. Gautam Thaker of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties told Frontline: “His land acquisition policies shift according to the awareness levels of the villagers. In villages near the cities, where real estate prices have shot up, Modi was bound to give the farmers a good deal. But he has used force along with ‘emergency powers’ of the government to acquire land in the hinterland and in coastal regions to develop big industrial zones.”

Most civil rights and environmental groups told Frontline that the Modi government had flouted all norms and procedures to give extraordinary facilities to big industrial groups and most of this had happened at the cost of livelihoods to an unprecedented number of people. The Nirma SEZ in Mahua is one such example. Nirma was allotted 268 hectares to set up a cement plant, besides a mining lease on more than 3,000 hectares in areas across the coastline in Bhavnagar district. Nirma’s logic was simple. It would break the limestone walls to manufacture cement and, without any additional transportation cost, would ship its goods through the port it would develop eventually. The Modi government classified the acquired land as “wasteland” and deprived over 15,000 people of their livelihoods. “Mahua is the second biggest onion-producing area in India after Nashik in Maharashtra. Together with production and processing at many dehydration and pesticide plants, onion gave employment to at least 15,000 people. The Modi government marketed the Nirma cement plant, saying that it would give employment to 416 people, which would mostly be unskilled labour. Can the loss of the whole economy of the area be compensated with the so-called Gujarat development model that Modi brags about?” asks Sagar Rabari of the Gujarat Lok Samiti, an organisation working for land reforms and land rights of the people.

In the revenue records that predate Indian independence, land is generally categorised as “private”, “grazing”, and “waste”. Private land is further divided into old and new tenures. While the old-tenure land can be sold, new-tenure land is strictly “agricultural” in use and cannot be sold. Grazing land for village animals, or Gauchar, is the only source of livelihood for pastoralists, a significant proportion of the village population in Gujarat. It belongs to the gram sabha and cannot be sold unless the government can show “inevitability”. Even in this case, the government can acquire the Gauchar by paying 30 per cent more than the market price. Wasteland is classified into culturable and non-culturable. These belong to the State government, which can only sell non-culturable wasteland in cases where a “public purpose” can be established.

In the last 15 years, the Gujarat government has acquired all these land by bureaucratic manipulations, as government documents reveal. In cases like the Dahej SEZ or Sanand, new-tenure land was converted into old-tenure land in government documents without any substantiation about whether it was acquired or bought. The benefits of an already half-hearted and incomplete land reforms in the State were also, thus, reversed. A major portion of the land acquired was Gauchar land without the permission of the gram sabha and the panchayat. In most cases, like the Mundra port, market prices were significantly lowered as the government has to pay 30 per cent over the market price.

In the defence institute project at Dahegam near Ahmedabad, 95 hectares of acquired Gauchar land was shown as “Padtar” (wasteland) in government documents. In some places in Kutch, Gauchar land was acquired, giving the reason that there were not enough cattle in the village. In other areas where the government acquired “wasteland”’ it was classified as “non-culturable” even while the villagers were using it for various purposes.

Government-industry nexus

In other instances, where companies had to necessarily buy the land directly, the Gujarat government facilitated the process through questionable methods. In Jamnagar, when Reliance was buying land to set up its oil refinery, 17 residents refused to sell their land. The government intervened to acquire their land by invoking the land acquisition Act in the name of “public purpose”. Rabari said: “When they refused to take any compensation and continued to protest, the government deposited their compensation in the State treasury and informed them that they could take it anytime they wanted. Until that time, the money would accumulate interest. In many places, brutal police force was used to stop people from resisting.” While such instances of land acquisition speak of a corrupt system, they point to a larger nexus between the government and the industry where the government is brokering land deals for the industry on the pretext of “development” and “public purpose”. Such a nexus was institutionalised by the Modi government when, in 2003, it announced a new industrial policy without any public consultation. The new industrial policy makes it easier for the government to change the classification of land so that it can be acquired, and also gives unprecedented authority to the District Collector to invoke emergency powers.

In such a state of affairs, many land rights activists point out that during Modi’s rule, Gujarat has seen “land grabbing” more than land acquisition. Mahesh Pandya, an environmentalist, gave some figures to Frontline. “More than 51 SEZs were approved during Modi’s regime, out of which 20 are in the final stage. Ten companies have withdrawn but the acquired lands are still with them. If we see only those SEZ proposals that got approved in the last two years, 13 SEZs would need 10,263 hectares of land, and seven others that are waiting for formal approvals would need another 7,522 hectares. A total of 20,587 hectares of land will be needed just to develop all the SEZs. More land will be acquired under various names such as Special Investment Region or industrial hubs and so on,” he said.

Prasad Matthew Chacko of the Behavioural Science Centre said: “The corporate groups have got much more land than they actually require. And it seems only a few companies are the biggest beneficiaries of this policy. Reliance, Adani, L&T and Essar are just some of them.” Chacko’s comment is not off the mark. To cite just one example, the government acquired land for the Reliance oil refinery at Jamnagar, but the latter openly advertises about its agro-businesses and corporate farming within that area without an initial permission to conduct such businesses at the time of acquisition.

Biggest casualty

The biggest casualty of Modi’s development model has been the village economy and the fraternity induced by mutual economic dependence. Owing to inadequate implementation of land reforms, upper castes like Darbars (Rajputs) and Patels in Gujarat own the majority of the agricultural land. Because of the growing pressure on land, even the upper castes have been losing most of their resources and assets. The landless, mostly Dalits, pastoralists like Rawals and Rabaris and Muslims, are in the most vulnerable position as the shrinking resources of the upper castes have meant severe exploitation of these communities. Gauchar land is important for raising livestock and in its absence pastoralists rely hugely on upper-caste benevolence to let them use their lands for cattle-rearing and become more dependent on them. Lack of resources and sustainable livelihoods has increased social malpractices like dowry and female foeticide. Illiteracy, unemployment and malnourishment have touched an all-time high in the last 15 years. The minimum wages of agricultural labourers have come down as they depend solely on upper-caste mercy in the absence of any social intervention on the part of the government, which in turn is fully dependent on the support of the dominant castes. The scrub forests of Gauchar and Padtar (wastelands) were also the local source of cooking fuel for the villages.

Tensions have also surfaced between the local populations, who have been rendered unemployed by the land acquisition, and immigrant labour, who are employed by the industries at low cost. Crime levels have significantly increased in the last 15 years. Activists say that it is happening because of the rising levels of unemployment, particularly in areas that have faced the brunt of rapid industrialisation without proper rehabilitation.

The environmental hazards of such rapid industrialisation have been many. Destruction of natural habitats like the mangroves in Mundra port and diversion of forest land for industries have had their impact on the village economy. Since the Gujarat government has been so welcoming of industries, they have only preferred areas that have good amounts of water and electricity (invariably the most fertile regions) to set up their plants.

Growing industrialisation in the last 10 years has meant that farmers are given less electricity (down from 10 hours a day to only six hours a day, sometimes only in the night, according to this correspondent’s investigation) and the irrigation projects have been unceremoniously stopped. Modi has rechanneled the Narmada’s water through canals in many villages, but most of this water is being used by industries.

For example, the Padra area near Vadodara had an effluent channel project (ECP), which discharged the treated waste of Vadodara city. However, the chemical-industrial hub that has developed in the last 10 years as a result of a flowing Narmada canal in the vicinity started discharging its untreated waste through the ECP into the Mahi river. “The industries draw water from the Narmada canal and discharge it into the Mahi. There is no cost involved in pipelines or treatment plants, since both the channels run parallel to each other at a very short distance. None of these new industrial plants, in Padra or anywhere in Gujarat, meets the Gujarat Pollution Control Board’s [GPCB] norms. Yet they have a free hand. As a result, most of the rivers in the State are heavily polluted,” said Rohit Prajapati, an environmentalist based in Vadodara.

Three cities of Gujarat, Vapi, Ankaleshwar and Vatva, figure in the Central Pollution Control Board’s list of the top 10 most polluted cities in India, with Vapi ranking first. The State government has failed to act even when environmental norms are blatantly flouted. The private ports and SEZs in the coastal regions are examples of open violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone’s norms. Preference to extractive industries like limestone, lignite and bauxite along the coast of Saurashtra has taken a huge toll on the ecosystem. Unofficial estimates say that about 600 villages will abandon agriculture in the next five years as a result of such industrial growth.

While Modi claims that the Gujarat model is empowering and encouraging entrepreneurship, the land acquisitions, both by the government and companies, indicate otherwise. Successful entrepreneurs have consistently lost their livelihoods in the last 15 years. The obsession with promoting industries, even at the cost of local economies and ecological sustainability, barely makes for a development model and only points to the structural nexus between the Modi government, corporate giants, and real estate honchos. An eroding village fraternity has helped the government in polarising votes in the last 10 years and, as activists say, the Gujarat development model is definitely a win-win situation for Hindutva propagandists like Narendra Damodar Modi.

 

Professor Ania Loomba on why Narendra Modi was stopped at Wharton


A Conversation With: Ania Loomba, Professor at University of Pennsylvania

By NIHARIKA MANDHANA, in India Ink, nytimes
Ania Loomba.Courtesy of Ania LoombaAnia Loomba.

On March 23, when students and prominent Indians meet at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for the India Economic Forum, one person will be conspicuous by his absence: Narendra Modi.

The chief minister of Gujarat was invited to join the conference via Skype to discuss Gujarat’s development model, but student organizers of the annual conferencewithdrew their invitation on Sunday after a few University of Pennsylvania professors circulated a petition opposing Mr. Modi’s invitation.

Their letter accused the right-wing politician of not doing enough to prevent riots in Gujarat in 2002 that led to the death of over 1,000 people, most of them Muslims. Mr. Modi has consistently denied these allegations, but the United States has refused to provide him with a visa over concerns about these accusations.

India Ink contacted one of the professors who helped mobilize opposition to Mr. Modi’s speech, Ania Loomba, who teaches English at the University of Pennsylvania. In an e-mail interview, Professor Loomba explained why she objected to Mr. Modi’s participation in the conference.

Q.

What were your main objections to the Wharton India Economic Forum’s invitation to Narendra Modi to speak at the conference?

A.

As is well known, Narendra Modi is a very controversial figure. We were concerned that this conference would help contribute to his efforts to sanitize his government’s record. Specifically, his government’s actions and inactions during the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002, which devastated the state’s Muslim population, and whose worst excesses have still not been redressed.

Mr. Modi has increasingly attempted to recast himself as a “developmentalist” with a strong economic record in Gujarat. This has been his campaign agenda both in recent state elections, and in his current bid to be projected as a major prime ministerial candidate in India’s next general election. We are firmly opposed to any attempt to de-link development from human rights: the kinds of atrocities minority communities suffered and continue to suffer in Gujarat are not neatly separable from economic development.

Moreover, there is mounting scholarly evidence that Gujarat’s economic growth has not yielded improvements in human development. Specifically health and educational outcomes, such as child nutrition, where the state remains among the worst performers in India.

In this troubled context, providing Mr. Modi with a plenary position to speak on economic development is a deeply political act. We should also note that the Adani Group was a platinum sponsor of the event –they have since refused their sponsorship after the student-organizers of the Forum rescinded their invitation to Mr. Modi. Gautam Adani, chairman of Adani Group, is a well-known Modi supporter, and his pulling out is a reminder that his sponsorship was part of an attempt to re-launch Mr. Modi in the U.S.

Mr. Modi’s proposed plenary address fit very much with his sanitizing campaign. He was due to speak on his state’s economic record, and there was no forum for questioning his human rights record. While the Wharton conference organizers say they do not ascribe to any political ideology, we felt that providing an opportunity that so closely fits the campaign agenda of a controversial politician is inherently political, particularly since it repressed any attention to Mr. Modi’s record on human rights and justice.

Q.

Would it have been better, as some have suggested, if Mr. Modi had been allowed to speak, followed by a question-and-answer session, where he could have been questioned about human rights and Gujarat’s human development record?

A.

No. I doubt that any substantive debate could have been part of an event like this. If the organizers wanted a debate, they could have invited someone opposed to Modi and staged the dialogue. This was not set up to be a dialogue. Moreover, a man who has prosecuted whistle-blowers and activists who had tried to bring the guilty to justice in Gujarat is hardly someone who is open to a debate and dialogue. As we wrote in our letter, the Supreme Court has criticized the Modi government for using trumped-up charges to harass activists fighting for justice.

Q.

In 2007, Columbia University invited President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, a highly controversial international figure, to address its students, amid protests by a host of groups. In a culture that embraces free speech, some have asked, should Mr. Modi’s address have been boycotted?

A.

It is part of a vibrant democracy to dissent and indeed to boycott speakers. Our letter to the student organizers of the Forum simply expressed our objections to their invitation. There is a big difference between shutting down free speech and raising principled objections to inviting a man with a sordid human rights record.

Let us be clear: we are not opposing his right to free speech. He has those rights, and avails of them on a daily basis: he has full and immediate access to the news media in Gujarat and India. What we are opposed to is the Forum, which is an element in a larger institution of which we are a part, granting him a position of honor to increase his personal legitimacy, and thus further a political agenda which we find reprehensible.

Finally, the media has been presenting it as a few professors shutting the desires of students. But many students were signatories too. As well as doctors, lawyers and concerned citizens. We did not speak from a position of any authority because student groups at Penn have the right to invite anyone they want. And, of course, anyone has the right to raise objections to that. Why did the organizers change their mind? Was it only because of us? According to the organizers, there were several “stakeholders” whose opinions influenced their views, including members of the alumni.

The reason Modi supporters are turning this into an issue of free speech is that the whole event has coincided with the massive effort to project Modi as a viable prime ministerial candidate. And this shows why he is not.

Q.

Narendra Modi has earned a reputation as an incorruptible politician and a good administrator. To that extent, many say, his insight and inputs are very valuable in any discussion on India’s economic promise. How would you respond to that?

A.

As I said earlier, this is precisely what needs to be contested; in the emergency imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, many extolled the efficiency of her regime. Many terrible regimes have come to power the world over in the name of economic development. How can Mr. Modi be considered a good administrator if he presided over a carnage and has refused to address or remedy its consequences for over a decade now?

But even if we set that aside, a recent Planning Commission report noted that Gujarat has slipped in its ranking in terms of the human development index among Indian states, and has made lower-than-average progress on crucial indicators such as infant mortality, child malnutrition, and maternal mortality. We are troubled with the exclusive focus on particular indicators of development, to the exclusion of others, particularly those most relevant to the “capabilities” — to quote the Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen — of Gujarat’s poorest citizens.

(The interview has been lightly edited and condensed.)

 

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