The Indian government and Indian companies need to stop exploiting India's poor and vulnerable!
Recently, Tata Motors announced plans to build a new factory in West Bengal. The factory is to be built on farmland. The company purchased farmland from farmers for an agreed upon amount. The poor, and mostly uneducated, farmers now believe they were cheated in the transaction (i.e., not given a fair price for their land) and rightly want more compensation.
The company responded by saying the price paid was fair and the government responded by beating up the protesting farmers.
I do not understand the mentality of the government and companies like Tata Motors. They don't mind paying a huge premium when purchasing foreign owned companies. However, when dealing with its own poor and therefore, most vulnerable people, they don't have any problems cheating them out of what they deserve. After all, business is business, right?
A few months ago, Tata Steel - controlled by the same Tata family who control Tata Motors - purchased Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus for 6.2 billion Euros or 12.2 billion Dollars. The final price paid represented a premium of 64 percent to Corus's pre-bid share price! The deal made Tata Steel the world's fifth largest steelmaker. The company had to take on a huge debt load for the purchase and most analysts concluded the deal was expensive.
This is a very typical and sad example of robbing from the poor to pay the rich. Tata Motors would not have to pay, what would have amounted to a few thousand dollars more, to fairly compensate the farmers for their land (forget about premium!).
The government is doing similar things by acquiring thousands of acres of valuable farmland at less than fair value for it's "Special Economic Zones" or SEZs. And what will happen to the millions and millions of self-employed shopkeepers if American retail giant, WalMart, enters the Indian market?
WalMart has already blocked space in Mumbai. It is currently "lobbying" (bribing) the government to open up foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail. I have little doubt that FDI regulations will be lifted soon.
Mountain trekking has taken me to many small, remote, isolated, self-sufficient and truly beautiful villages in India. The villagers are some of the most gentlest, kindest and helpful people I have ever met. They have little material things and face many hardships, yet they are happy. City dwellers can learn something from them. I would never even dream of cheating or exploiting these people.
I encourage people to visit some of the villages, not to exploit, but to learn how to live. Show some love, please!