Starting tomorrow, peasants in Singur, Hooghly who have pledged lands to the government will get compensation. Reports suggest that notwithstanding opposition, about 60% of total land asked by Tata Motors for their car factory has already been pledged. Tatas need nearly 1000 acres to build the factory, which – once it blooms fully – will cater to many thousands in direct and indirect employment.
Compare Tatas’ needs with Infosys’ or Wipro’s demands for 100 and 53 acres of prime Kolkata land respectively. They are not happy with skyrocketing land prices, and since the government ‘invited’ them long back – especially Infosys – they feel it’s obligatory on government’s part to get them land they prefer at cheaper cost. I feel the obligation doesn’t hold good any longer simply because there is now no dearth of businesses willing to set foot in Kolkata paying prevailing land cost.
But that is not why I write this piece. It is becoming increasingly important to work out economic benefit that will accrue to large section of society per unit of land given to big businesses. Tata Motors’ car factory is a manufacturing unit that will employ many times more – direct and in ancillary industries – than what Infosys or Wipro will do.
In the case of former, it will be a cascading effect once more and more people make decent earnings. An increase in purchasing power will result in their asking for other fruits of better living, like better education, better healthcare, better entertainment, and so on. There is no doubt that a single giant car factory can trigger far-reaching value-additions to the society. We all know what Maruti’s Gurgaon factory has done to the capital’s once-sleepy outer villages. Ditto with Pune’s numerous auto factories or Hyundai’s Irungattukotai manufacturing plant near Chennai.
Infosys’ garden where Gates and Blair planted trees – value to few (Picture source)
In sharp contrast, Infosys’ or Wipro’s undulating green expanse in their campus dotted with architectural marvels almost totally serve their own interests, which is to add to their surging bottomlines. There is very little tangible economic benefits for the people in the surroundings or the greater society at large.
Lest you feel that if IT biggies like Infosys don’t come to Kolkata, it’ll be bad news, let me opine that this is not so. Many global software biggies have come to Kolkata without much fanfare and quite a few of them are rapidly expanding too. The logic is when you want to set up shop in Palo Alto, you do it because it boasts of some of the smartest IT brains. In a similar vein, if Kolkata has abundant talented workforce, many more Infosys and Wipro will come calling, even if that means taking a smaller plot away from the city.
And the path to creating more and more skill will clearly come from overall economic benefits to the society, by providing jobs to people at the grassroots, which only large employment-generating plants like Tata Motors can provide.