Opposing the auction of Karnataka

Over a hundred people from Karnataka representing various human rights groups/issues gathered on the rainy evening of 3rd June 2010 on the steps of Bangalore's Town Hall. Using informative leaflets and slogans, we jointly protested the two day Global Investors Meet (GIM) held in Bangalore that day and the next. Read more

Demanding people and environment friendly development, we questioned the Karnataka Chief Minister's prior claims that the GIM would generate investments worth three lakh crores and around three lakh new jobs. This equates to one position created for an investment of one crore. However, if the same amount is invested in small and medium industries, twenty jobs can be created for every crore. Further, as per government data from the department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (http://dipp.nic.in/fdi_statistics/india_fdi_index.htm), the total foreign direct investment (FDI) approved in Karnataka between 2000-2010 is around thirty thousand crores and the actual amount invested less than that. So how would three lakh crores be realised in two days? And how many jobs would be created actually?

The government had approved Zuari fertilisers and Chemicals Ltd. to establish a urea plant in Mastihole village of Hukkeri taluk in Belgaum district costing four thounsand five hundred and sixty five crores. This was supposed to create fifteen hundred and sixty jobs, i.e., an investment of three crores per job! Similarly, there is a proposal by India Cements limited to establish a two MTPA cement plant and sixty megawatt coal based thermal power plant at Ganapur in Burugupalli village of Chincholi taluk in Gulbarga district investing eight hundred and fifty crores. Only one hundred and seventy five additional jobs are promised implying that five crores are required for a job. [Sources: Government Orders (GO) CI 27 SPI 2010, CI 32 SPI 2010]

Loss of land, employment, money, resources...
The state has already acquired fifty thousand acres for its prospective 'land bank' and is adding hundred thousand. Estimating conservatively that farming on an acre of land supports minimum five people, the land being acquired will support seven lakh fifty thousand people at least! Assuming that the GIM really creates three lakh positions and that they all are are distributed among those who lost jobs due to land acquisition, it still leaves four hundred and fifty thousand people unemployed. Although the government claims that mostly non-agricultural land was taken, the relevant gazette notifications refute this. For instance, GO CI66SPQ2010, Bangalore, 17/02/2010 states that fifteen hundred and forty two acres of land has been acquired in Bailahongala village of Belgaum district, of which only 0.2% is barren.

Moreover, most of the funding will be through bank loans comprising our savings or taxes accumulated with state owned banks. Effectively, people's money will be diverted to the private companies and return as FDI! And Special Economic Zones (SEZ's) housing the corporations grant them umpteen sops at the expense of the lives and livelihoods of already marginalized dalits, adivasis, etc.

Importantly, Karnataka is facing an acute electricity crisis and water shortage with many urban and rural areas having eight to sixteen hour power outages and water supply only twice or thrice a week. But such destructive industries are provided massively subsidized water and electricity while small farmers commit suicide.

Why is this whole process being rushed through without public and political consultations? The state must adopt an inclusive developmental approach and strengthen local economic systems instead of decreasing people's purchasing power. We strongly objected the investor led development model which sheds human blood instead of human welfare as in Orissa recently. Convinced that by organizing the GIM the state government has sold Karnataka, piece by piece, we appealed to all citizens of Karnataka to resist it.

Pushpa Achanta
Photo credits (all three photographs): Salila Prasada Vanka