Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Farmland to factory in India

INDIA: Farmland to factory in industrializing India by Somini Sengupta

Just beyond the city limits, a patch of land where an auto factory is planned amid a sprawl of potato fields and rice paddies has become a battleground for the world's longest-running democratically elected Communist government.This government of West Bengal State plans to turn over about 400 hectares, or 1,000 acres, of fertile farmland to one of the country's largest industrial conglomerates, Tata Group, for a factory that will produce a fleet of small, low-cost cars for India's growing middle class.How the land was acquired is a matter of red-hot contention, igniting crippling demonstrations, hunger strikes and occasional violent conflicts.

The government says that most of the landowners consented, but opponents charge coercion.Land is one of India's scarcest resources. So how this fight plays out is likely to hold far-reaching lessons to India as a whole, as it tries to balance the demands of industrial growth with the needs of those who rely on agriculture. Across the country, steel mills, power plants, roads, ports and hundreds of so-called special economic zones are planned, all of which will require state governments like this one to acquire vast swaths of land.

(Click here to read more)