Is TN going the way of Bengal?

By Prof R.Vaidyanathan on 06 March 2017

Many may recollect that Bengal province used to be leading in many industries in the fifties and sixties. It was known for Chemicals/Pharmaceuticals/engineering industries. It had huge Salt Gholas in and around Kolkata and Howrah. The first computer was installed at Indian Statistical Institute at BT road. It had a vibrant handloom industry and known for its dying skills.

But the partition gave rise to refugees and many called as Bangal from the other side of the border embraced left ideology. It was a sense of victimhood and expressed itself against Delhi.

Actually the Left ideology of Bengal as a regional voice clocked in ideology. Many Bhadralok intellectuals felt shifting of capital from Kolkata to Delhi in the thirties was the beginning of discrimination against Bengal.

Due to left ideology the political class identified business class as “oppressors” and entrepreneurship was frowned upon. The growth and rule of left from the seventies re-enforced these issues and unfortunately Bengal was shunned by entrepreneurs except some old school like RPGs and Bangurs. The new entrepreneurship shifted/developed in the western part of the country. The victimhood expressed in the form of usage of resources/freight equalization etc did find an emotional appeal and this gave way to protest against Delhi and all types of industrial ventures. The last straw was Nandigram where the attempt of Tatas to set up a car factory was thwarted by the party of Mamta Banerjee which carried “victimhood” to extremes. It was presented as Agriculture versus inhuman capitalists. The project abandoned, got relocated to Gujarat and rest is history.

Interestingly Tamil Nadu, one of the most advanced states is currently exhibiting “victimhood” mindset. Most political leaders are forced to accept this discourse. Koodankulam was the  major  nuclear project generating electricity .Due to agitation by NGOs funded by foreign forces and supported by Church the project was stalled for years and more than Rs.1000 crores cost escalation took place. Even a mild mannered Manmohan—then PM- has to express his anguish about this senseless intransigence. Then came Jallikattu issue decided by SC. Again a huge anti Delhi sentiment was created and now the Hydrocarbon project at Neduvasal.

In the recently concluded Discovered Small Fields auctions, two contract areas — Karaikal in Puducherry, and Neduvasal in Tamil Nadu having an in-place volume of 4, 30,000 tonnes of oil and oil equivalent gas (oil plus gas) — were awarded to private contractors. According to estimates, these two areas are expected to generate gross revenues of ₹300 crore as well as a royalty of ₹40 crore for the State governments. ONGC has been annually paying ₹250-350 crore as royalty to the State. Dismissing allegations that the Tamil Nadu government was not informed or that permission was not taken before starting the exploration activity or putting the block under the hammer, one official said according to News Reports “Mining lease approval is given by the State government. This is a discovered block — exploration has happened. So, the State was in the know.”

ONGC was given the area under the petroleum exploration license in 1986. Exploration permission from the State government was given in 2008 and the mining lease was awarded in 2013 for seven years. In fact, ONGC had written to the district administration of Neduvasal on December 30, 2016, seeking to convert the mining lease from seven years to 20 years.

Throughout this period we find Congress and DMK ministers at centre giving assent but now the agitators want Modi to “resign”.

This Hydrocarbon projects are not new to TN or Tanjore. Already more than 100 projects are functioning in TN. The arguments given against the Hydrocarbon project is varying from concerns about environment to bizarre issues of “grabbing” fertile lands by “central forces”. The process of drilling and production requires very limited surface land area (generally 120X120 square metre) which will not affect agriculture or the soil of the entire lease area, he said, adding that operators are required to follow strict environmental norms for the use of operational land. Regarding groundwater table, the official said that extraction is being carried out from deeper earth area (generally beyond 1,000 m), and thus aquifers, which are located at shallower levels, are not affected.

Whenever the central scientists/bureaucrats go to Neduvasal to explain the issues they are gheroed and intimidated. The “victimhood” is taken to heights and now turning into anti-industrialization. The argument given –supported by local ministers-that if locals do not want it then do not have it—is dangerous. This can be replicated in Jharkhand or Chhattisgarh. No extractive industry can be started. Actually what is below surface belong to entire Indian society and not to local villagers.

TN is already facing an employment crisis due to lack of new industries and crisis in Middle East coupled with decline of IT sector. Instead of focusing on this the political parties are stoking linguistic fanaticism and a sense of victim hood against Delhi. It is interesting to observe that many forces that were supportive of Veerappan the forest brigand; are actively involved in Kudankulam and Neduvasal protests. NGOs mostly funded from USA and Europe are very active in this protests. In all TN is in a situation like Bengal which will be shunned by industrialists and which will increase its sense of “victimhood”. Also TN has enough secessionist forces supported by terror groups like LTTE. An explosive cocktail is brewing.

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