Vantage point

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I have written innumerable times about how the answers to the struggles of Nandigram, or Narmada or Singur lie in making property rights unassailable. Eminent domain needs to be scrapped and right to property needs to be re-established. This suggestion however, has come in for criticism from the left as well as the turbocharged go-India-go-at-10-percent-growth-rate crowd.

The left is uncomfortable with the idea of unassailable private property rights because it sounds too much like capitalism. They instead believe in convincing the state to be compassionate, equitable and fair. The growth-rate crowd on the other hand is obsessed with catching up with China and is interested only in the ends and not in the means.

The most rational approach would be to take the government out of the picture and let the farmers decide for themselves. Rather than imposing an SEZ in a place where the land-owners do not want and SEZ, go to a place where farmers do want an SEZ. If the SEZ is an economically viable and desired outcome, the much maligned market forces will make the SEZ happen. In fact all of India should be an SEZ.... but that is a different post altogether.

A most heartening news in this direction, one which has received little attention on the blogosphere, is about 1500 farmers from Avasari Khurd, a village near Pune passing a resolution asking for SEZ status. Yes, they want it. They welcome it. And best of all, they will manage it themselves. They have all come together to form a company which will be set up with their own capital, and will have parts of the SEZ ear-marked for various purposes ranging from industrial, residential as well as agricultural purposes. They do not need the government to step in, benevolently decide a "fair price", buy the land from them, and sell it to industrialists at massive profits.

This is a resounding message from the villagers of Avasari Khurd - we do not need nannies. It is also a message to the leftists, who believe that pursuit of wealth and industrialization is somehow a bad thing. And best of all, it is a great example of spontaneous order.