Vantage point

Friday, December 08, 2006

Getting the Point

The fact that the "big bad guys" in the Singur mess are Communists should help people get a very vital point. That all such land-grabs, from Narmada to Posco to all those mentioned in Sainath's book, have a common cause - no sanctity of property rights.

The success of eminent domain rests on the premise that the government will take the right decisions. That it will only acquire land which is unfit for agriculture. That it will compensate the land owners appropriately. All the protestors and activists ask for better decisions and better compensation. The assumption here seems to be if you have a compassionate pro-poor government, it ensures that such injustice can be avoided. And yet, it is supposedly the most pro-poor of them all, the Communists, that have been grabbing land this time.

There is only one way out of it. Restore right to property as a fundamental right in the constitution. I am amazed at how left-liberals and activists don't see that it will be the most pro-poor step possible. Right now, anyone's property can be grabbed by the government. But is anyone's property grabbed? No. You hardly ever hear of rich people whose land has been grabbed. They have the influence and the resources to ensure that they are not screwed over. So the rich people in India don't really need property rights to be enshrined in the constitution.

It is the poor who need property rights. So that they can not be browbeaten by government decree to part with something that they own. So that they have a real shot in court against such decisions.

But bizarrely, no bleeding hearts, no Patkars, no Sainath will ever propose something as simple as this - restore that which was a fundamental right of ours 30 years back.