Tuesday, October 07, 2008

From Singur to Sanand & from a Bad M to a Good M

The Nano has found a new home – Gujarat. According to an announcement made earlier today the Tatas will set up the plant in an 1100 acre plot at Sanand, close to Ahmedabad. The planned capacity of the plant is 5 lakh cars a year, up from the Singur plant's proposed capacity of 3 lakh cars. Finally Tata can get going on his pet project.

I believe that the entire Nano saga raises a couple of issues.

The first one is very clearly that of land acquisition for industrial production. I believe that the entire process of acquiring land should be dealt with in a much more transparent and humane manner. I do not want to go into the specifics of the agitation at Singur but on a broader scale, when people are being asked to give up their land for industrialisation, the social and cultural costs need to be evaluated along with the economic costs. I suspect we are not doing that at the moment.
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The second is whether Modi is now beginning to cast off the opprobrium of 2002. The Sangh Parivar and large sections of Gujarat always saw him as a dynamic and result oriented CM. But after this coup of his will the corporate sector and India at large also buy into the Modi story? Or as Tata put it, “the Good M” theory?

The issue with Modi was always his acceptability among people outside Gujarat. But with this very clear demonstration of seriousness of intent in working for the development of the state and the speed with which he made the government machinery move Modi, I suspect, will begin to acquire a halo even outside the state. The “From a Bad M to a Good M” comment of Ratan Tata could well be the tipping point as far as Modi’s career on the national stage is concerned. After all it does signal a high level of acceptability for the man from one of the most respected names in corporate India.

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