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Towards inclusive growth

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Acharya Charaká, the key contributor to the ancient medical system of Ayurvedá, was once out on a field trip with his students. They chanced upon a rare flower plant while passing through a small farm. “Let’s secure this plant along with the surrounding farm and take back a flower to our lab for research,” most students felt. While a student was about to pluck a flower, Charaká stopped him.

“This is a private property and we should first seek the owner’s permission,” he said firmly. “But sir, the owner only seems to be a small time farmer. Moreover, what we are planning to do is in the interest of the common people across our kingdom and perhaps even the human race,” replied a student. “No matter how noble and far reaching our intention is, it does not give us the right to encroach upon a private property – regardless of whether its owner is a small time farmer or a rich landlord,” Charaká said and walked towards a hut that seemed to be the owner’s home. All looked in awe since Charaká was also the royal physician with considerable authority. Yet, he thought it necessary to take permission for plucking a flower.

As you would have realised by now, the story has a strong allusion to a key infrastructural issue of our times. We are talking about the use of private land for public good. We all know that challenges in land acquisition remain a key factor responsible for the slow pace of infrastructural as well as industrial development in our country. And the government is taking several steps to expedite the process of land acquisition including setting up of Special Land Acquisition Units in every State.

While we appreciate the government’s efforts and intentions, we believe it’s important that the land acquisition policy is interwoven with a proper rehabilitation package. I would have liked to end the Charaká story by adding – ‘for handing over his farm for a greater public cause, the farmer was given a handsome compensation along with a job on the same farm’. Too idealistic, you say? But that’s how it should be done. If the package is right, land acquisition would be smoother and faster.

While vandalising public property is not uncommon in this country, many such incidents involve people unhappy with their rehabilitation package (or no package at all). No point in creating something for the people by depriving one section and then allowing that deprived section to vandalise or destroy what has been created for everybody. Growth should be inclusive in every sense.

Since I started off with Acharya Charaká, it would be appropriate to conclude with a couple of quotes from the Charaká Samhita, his most famous treatise on healing. For their relevance, one could be forgiven for believing that these are relatively modern aphorisms. ‘First analyse all factors, including the environment, which influence the affected, and then prescribe treatment accordingly’.

The second one is equally modern in its sensibility and perhaps more familiar to us – ‘Prevention is better than cure’.

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May 2020
11 May 2020