“My Dreams Have Been Tarnished Because of the SEZ Development”; A True Story, A Realization

Posted on May 19, 2012 in Business and Economy

By Vaibhav Srinivasan:

This article is based on a true experience and some introspection, I encountered a few days back in my “Air-conditioned” and creatively designed office campus, which stands erect as a beauty of modern day steel structure completely glossy and amusing in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) outside city limits. Yes. The very same office building, a perfect capitalist in terms of current consumption when the whole state sacrifices their needs for few thousand machines and professionals working inside.

The incident was very simple. Late night post 11:30 pm, cleaners were allowed to clean our floors and one young fellow, probably of my age pick up a small glass article kept on a table. Soon he saw his supervisor approaching and his ability to enjoy the artistic beauty of the fancy doll was kindled and when he tried to put it away from the eyes of his supervisor, he failed and in tension he dropped the same on the floor.

It resulted in a fuss created by his superior. Scolded and abused, the poor fellow was sent out of the office, tagged as misfit. I met him at the corridor when I was on my way for a late night coffee. I took him along with me when I saw the tears rolling down his cheeks and asked him if he was okay.

He started speaking…

(Pointing out to a distant place) “There can you see sir? Some small hill kind of thing… I am coming from a village near that hill. We were, of course, a happy family with my father and mother working as farmers, and I was busy with my schooling. We had very little money. I was like all other village kids who were benefited by the free education from Govt.

Rains betrayed us. Tractors and other Farm equipment completely ruined us. Just when the farms had failed, the announcement from our Govt arrived. Our Village, safe away from the sea, was identified as a hot spot for the SEZ. We were assured of regular jobs, development, infrastructure, connectivity and what not. For the first time in my life, we all had dreamed of seeing our village turning into a developed place like MADRAS!!

Cars, internet, Tar roads… Facilities to come and cater us… It’s going to employ us as well, we thought. We were asked to leave our lands and we left our huts. An asbestos sheeted accommodation was given to us. Land owners gave away their land to Govt. for money. We, the landless laborers were either taken as security guards, or house-keeping assistants. Initially, my mom worked as a maid in the cafeteria of this office and my dad was the security guard at Gate-2.

Now that competition came for us from North and those guys were ready to grab our chances for very less wages we lost even those little jobs we had. My father is now out of job and he has turned into a lunatic and my mother falls ill very often. My beautiful dreams of learning something artistic because of the SEZ development have now been tarnished. All I am left with is the option of do this job to feed my family.”

He continued with his story. After a while, I came back to my seat and did some research about this issue he had faced.

Suicides have become common nowadays. Be it IITian or a farmer… It is a serious problem now. In Tamil Nadu alone, the number of farmer suicide occurrences were 500 in 2008 and 1260 in 2009 (officially). For a quintal of paddy, manufacturing cost is Rs. 1500 and the acquiring cost by Govt. itself is Rs. 700-1100.

Tamil Nadu’s demand of food grains annually is 170 Lakh tonnes while the production is just 80 Lakh tonnes. If Karnataka and Andhra don’t supply us food, my friend, we are on the verge of starvation. The cost of fertilizers is increasing and the land is losing its productivity – gradually due to chemicals.

Statistics shut me down. I started wondering is SEZs are qualified enough to exploit our agriculture and small-scale industries.

And then I realized how I am eaten up by present-selfishness rather than future worries. I want to eat today and so I earn. But when the fear of tomorrow’s food availability comes in me, I get worried. My community should not stay hungry. I am currently developing software which in no direct means would feed a hungry person. And in due process I am sure I would have indirectly exploited farmers to whom the land originally belonged to.

By all means, I tried to justify my stand. But despite doing that. I admit, I feel guilty…

I am not sure what the solution to this problem is. May be it lies in our better decisions, standing up for the right – or may be in just making sure the right information about these problems is right out there.