Bengal’s economy will suffer if Tatas leave: Amartya Sen

September 20th, 2008 - 6:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Sep 20 (IANS) Expressing concern over the happenings related to the Tata Motors factory in Singur, nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen has said West Bengal’s economy will suffer a big jolt if the auto major decides to shift its small car plant out of the state.Sen found the fresh compensation package announced by the government “just”.

“Apart from the fact that the state will lose out on the investment relating to the motor factory and the ancillary industries, (if the Tatas go away) the view that will gain currency across India is that West Bengal’s brand of politics makes it impossible for any economic initiative, and street politics can jeopardise any venture,” Sen said in a letter published in the vernacular daily Anandabazar Patrika.

Though the state government had erred during its failed bid to set up a chemical hub in Nandigram, it did not commit any such fundamental mistake regarding the Tata Nano project, Sen said.

He felt the small car facility and the ancillary industries would be good for the state and would help it in dispelling the notion, at least partially, that the state’s industrial climate was not conducive to set up projects.

The Nobel prize winner termed it as a “bit unfortunate” that the factory was coming up on fertile farmland.

“I am not at all concerned over the quantum of land being used for the project, as it is very small compared to the total farmland in the state,” he said.

“Moreover, the losses due to acquisition of farmland would be more than compensated by the increase in employment opportunities and income in Singur. But to those unwilling to give their land, it’s a big loss, and that’s a vital question,” the economist said.

Sen said the best case scenario would have been if the required land was purchased directly from the landowners. “Acquisition should be the last resort.”

He also felt the 40 percent over the then market price given to the landlosers at the time of the acquisition was not enough. “Because it was always expected that due to industrialisation, the price of land in the area would skyrocket.

“But now if the Tatas leave Singur, and there is a high possibility of that happening, then Singur will be back to its old self, and the land price will nosedive. Those holding protests must be worried over that. But the government should have paid much more than what it paid for the land at the time of acquisition,” Sen said.

“The compensation package announced by the government recently is much more just. And along with the promise for alternative employment and other benefits, the new proposals can be rated as a good compromise formula,” he added.

With several other states announcing sops for Tata Motors to set up the small car plant, there is a possibility that the company was preparing to move out. “If the deadlock is not resolved within a short time, then it is widely believed that the company will leave Singur. But in that scenario, even if the owners get back their land, they will not get it in its original shape,” he warned.

Sen regretted the state’s political character would change only when the ruins, both in terms of industries and economy, become more visible. “But this is a futuristic statement. Now, there is a strong attraction for street politics. To that has been added the wrong notion of physiocrats of yesteryears that agriculture is the only way to prosperity,” he said.

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