Siddharth Joshi

At a conceptual level, a cluster or enclave approach to promotion of industrial development is not new in India (Sampat, 2010; Cross, 2014; Jenkins et al, 2014). The role of the state in promotion of industrial development in India went through a paradigm shift in the 1990s from that of investment planning to provisioning of infrastructure (especially land). As private capital (domestic as well as foreign) became the prime driver of industrial investments in the country, and since most of the infrastructure requirements fell in the domain of the state governments, various state governments started competing with each other for investment of private capital, offering not just tax concessions but also easy access to land (through land banks) and priority access to water and energy resources. Within this framework, the Union government first adopted the Special Economic Zone framework (2005) and subsequently the National Manufacturing Policy (2011). The SEZ framework also adopted a cluster approach to industrial development, and access to existing infrastructure networks (rail, road, airport, ports) were strong factors guiding the citing of industrial clusters. How different is the idea of industrial corridors from this previous approach? What makes it a little difficult to answer this question is the fact that no policy framework has been articulated by the government beyond press releases outlining the broad objectives of the programme. While the National Manufacturing Policy (2011) speaks about establishing National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZ) as industrial townships, an idea that comes very close to the Nodes/Investment Regions being development under the National Industrial Corridor Programme, the policy was announced four years after the DMIC was conceptualised and has no mention of industrial corridors. In fact, without much loss of generality, each corridor can be looked at separately, and each corridor can be disaggregated to its constituent nodes which are more or less standalone industrial areas. In the case of Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor, for example, beyond the fact that the three nodes are located along the Golden Quadrilateral Road Network, no synergies are articulated between these nodes at the level of planning. Having said that, the emerging framework within which these nodes are being developed differ from existing industrial areas in two significant ways. Firstly, these nodes are envisioned as greenfield industrial areas comprising not only industrial sites but all allied services including residential areas, commercial facilities etc., which would be governed not by the jurisdictional local bodies like gram panchayats or municipalities but by industrial townships constituted under Article 243Q of the Constitution of India. Thus, ‘zones of exceptions’ are sought to be created under the guise of industrial development, and as we have seen in the case of Tumakuru Node, a much larger area than just the industrial area is sought to be brought within the ambit of these zones of exceptions.

Additionally, while in the existing industrial areas, the responsibility of waste management (both solid and liquid) and last mile infrastructure lies with the industry management, the nodes being developed under CBIC would provide already built trunk infrastructure (like treatment plants etc., power grids) to which the individual industrial units can plug into, which signals further socialisation of private externalities.

What the foregoing preliminary analysis shows is that the gains from such massive projects with such long project cycles are at best uncertain. The socio-economic value of these projects are being justified based on projected figures of employment generation in the future. But as we saw above, different numbers in terms of potential employment generation are projected in different documents without providing any basis for such projections. There doesn’t seem to be any process in place for evaluating whether the existing industrial parks have achieved their targets in terms of investment attracted or employment generated. Extent of acquisition itself seems not to be based on any needs assessment as we have seen in the case of Tumakuru Node where despite availability of unallotted land in industrial parks, further acquisition has been carried out in adjacent villages. Alongside the indiscriminate acquisition of land, the impact of the existing industries on the environment was clearly highlighted by the residents of the villages. The terms of the Environmental Clearance are being violated by the industries in the Vasanthanarasapura Industrial Area, and there is not just a complete absence of any mechanism either by KIADB itself or by KSPCB to monitor adherence to these terms but even after complaints by the residents regarding this, the violations continue unchecked.

The opposition to these corridors has galvanised only after the emergence of sparse but definite signs of the expanse of the government’s  plan. Each phase of acquisition has been delinked from the previous and the subsequent phase of acquisition. The phase-wise acquisition of lands have not only fragmented the opposition to such large acquisition, it has also now created serious divergences and differentiation in the interest of the affected people. As it stands now, one set of people have largely reconciled themselves to the acquisition and are only aggrieved by the amount being paid to them or the delay in receiving compensation. Another set of farmers are involved in negotiations over the price for the next phase of acquisition, some of whom are willing to give the land to the government, some are opposed to it while a majority are undecided. Another set of residents who fall under the 123 villages which have been notified as falling under the jurisdiction of planning authority are unaware that the boundaries of the industrial corridor can engulf their lands also. This poses serious challenges for organisations which are trying to organise farmers against such large scale acquisitions. Aggregation of such varied interests into a coherent movement would be challenging to achieve but is also the need of the hour for a balanced development of both agriculture and industry.

Read and Download the full report here: The Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor – A Preliminary Report