Land acquisition: If the UPA-2 law had been in place…

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Published: April 7, 2015 12:44:45 AM

An open letter to Sonia Gandhi, requesting her to withdraw support for the UPA-2 land law

Dear Shrimati Gandhi,

Press reports indicate that you remain steadfastly committed to the poison pill land acquisition legislation inflicted upon this country by the UPA-2 government. In this context, I thought I would like to bring to your attention the following facts and anecdotes from our country’s recent history.

1. Your late husband’s grandfather was very proud of Bhakra, Hirakud, Tungabhadra and other dams. He referred to them as “Temples of Modern India”. If the UPA-2 law had been in place, none of these would have come up.

2. Your late husband’s grandfather made sure that all the IITs that he personally was committed to had extensive campuses. If the UPA-2 law had been in place, none of these campuses would exist.

3. Your late husband’s grandfather was the moving spirit behind large-scale projects and sprawling modern townships at Bhilai, Rourkela, Durgapur, Bokaro, Neyveli and so on. If the UPA-2 law had been in place, none of these factories and none of these townships would exist.

4. Your late husband’s grandfather was committed to scientific research in India. He made sure that all CSIR laboratories had extensive land available in order to ensure their efficient operation and possible future growth. If the UPA-2 law had been in place, none of these laboratories would be as well-endowed as they are.

5. Your late husband’s grandfather was convinced that atomic energy held great promise. He supported the creation of key facilities at Trombay and elsewhere. If the UPA-2 law had been in place, the Indian atomic energy establishment would have been severely constrained.

6. Your late husband’s grandfather conceived of Chandigarh as an important symbol of the new India. Some critics may carp at it. But there is no doubt that Pandit Nehru himself was very proud of the city. Under the UPA-2 law, Chandigarh would have been impossible.

7. Your late husband’s grandfather was very fond of Bangalore (sorry, Bengaluru) and was keen to develop industries and research facilities in that city. If the UPA-2 law had been in place, Panditji would not have been able to create and nurture HAL, HMT, BEL, ITI, NAL, LRDE, etc.

8. Your late mother-in-law was not as much of a builder as her father. She preferred to take over and nationalise what others had built. But she too created in her father’s memory the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. If the UPA-2 law had been in place, the JNU campus would have been impossible.

9. Going further back in our history, please note that under the UPA-2 law, the Indian Railways would pretty much not be there. For that matter, neither would the city of New Delhi be there (which some of us who do not live in New Delhi think would have been a pretty good idea—just joking!).

10. Not just that of the members of your family, but the achievements of some of the great builders of modern India would not have been possible, if the UPA-2 law had been in place. I refer to persons such as Sir Visvesvaraya, Mirza Ismail, Jamsetji Tata, BC Roy, Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai, Satish Dhawan and so on.

While there is every reason to support the argument that when land is acquired under the principle of “eminent domain”, fair and generous compensation needs to be given (incidentally, this argument was rejected by your late husband’s grandfather who piloted specific constitutional amendments denying such compensation to landowners), the idea that it is perfectly in order to delay by years projects that, quite frankly, we need desperately as of yesterday, is simply not tenable. We are, as it is, a country committed to endless delays, commissions, committees, task forces, discussions, debates and so on, and woefully uncommitted to action. The UPA-2 law is the ultimate guarantor that delay will become completely and horribly institutionalised in our country. It is a recipe for complete inaction.

Kindly think of your late husband’s grandfather, who at the end of the day wanted to build—and had no time for those who wanted to obstruct.

Kindly withdraw your support for the UPA-2 land law. It was a mistake to start with. Please be part of the process of correcting the mistake.

Please do not be party to prolonging the agony of a stalled and stalling country.

Sincerely yours,

Jaithirth Rao

The author is a Mumbai-based entrepreneur

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