Games politicians play

Updated: Oct 31 2005, 06:30am hrs
Former prime minister HD Deve Gowdas attempt to resurrect the compensation controversy, purportedly on behalf of those whose land is acquired by industry, needs to be shown up for what it is: an attempt to play to vote banks at the cost of the larger state and national interest. At the recent 2005 conference, Mr Gowda demanded jobs for those evicted from their lands to make way for IT and other companies. Had the demand been made by professional activists, it would have been dismissed as another of those well-intentioned, but misguided demands, periodically made by a fringe. When it comes from a former prime minister, it has the potential to create considerable mischief.

Since the first Constitution Amendment Act, 1950, independent India has been debating how to compensate people whose land is acquired by the state in public interest. The Constitutional requirement, as per Article 31-A, is that if the acquired land falls within the ceiling limit, compensation paid cannot be less than the market value. But the issue here goes beyond mere numbers. It is a fig-leaf for something far more insidious. Indeed, Mr Gowdas demand for jobs for evicted persons is essentially political. To argue, as he is doing, that the IT industry, which needs highly skilled and computer-literate persons, employ uneducated and unskilled persons is completely absurd. To be sure, in our socialist days when PSU steel plants were set up, the state did provide employment to some of those displaced. Today, that is not possible even in PSUs, thanks to advances in technology and modern work practices that make it difficult to employ unskilled workers. In the IT sector, it is well-nigh impossible to employ such people.

Mr Gowda must, therefore, stop raking up emotive issues just to win political brownie points. If only he would use his political clout in the state to help those dispossessed of their land to use the compensation money to set up small businesses or educate their children, he would do far better service, both to his own state and the country at large.