There is an interesting editorial in today's New Indian Express that says the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Hyderabad are but Special Real Estate Zones.
Brings to mind what I had written when this stupid idea was first mooted: that they should just be called "Company Towns," and if they are treated such, the middle classes will benefit from better urban areas to live and work in.
Since then, I have written a longish piece on urbanization in the Indian context, entitled "Bungalows For All: A Critical Assessment of India's Human Habitat." In this I have maintained that our The State, while claiming to "protect" the habitat of The Tiger, has destroyed The Habitat of The Human Being, which is The City. Here are the first 400 words of that essay:
"There is no shortage of land in India. There is, rather, a shortage of urban land.
The country measures over 3 million square kilometers. It is a huge sub-continent. And much of this land is "unowned," in the sense that it is virgin territory. Unfortunately, the socialist Indian State is the default owner of all this unowned land. And the shortage of urban land is caused precisely by this default ownership. As Milton Friedman once said, "if you give the Sahara Desert to the government, there will be a shortage of sand in five years." Indians do not have a decent habitat because of their socialist government and the socialistic deification of collective property, especially land.
There are slums in every Indian metropolis. Even in a totally new city like New Delhi, there are over 900 slum clusters in which the poor, who constitute over half the city's population, live cheek-by-jowl. There are no toilets in these slums – not because of "poverty," for most slum-dwellers own television sets and mobile phones. There are no toilets because these are not "legal" colonies wherein sewage lines can be legally laid. Slum dwellers have no property titles to their homes. Therefore, their properties cannot be leveraged in the capital market: the "mystery of capital" continues to stupefy them. This also means that they have no postal address. In addition, there is filth and disease. Slums are a living hell.
Yet, this only proves that life in an Indian village must be much worse. As praxeologists we need only record the fact that increasing numbers of villagers are preferring urban slums to the idylls of rural life. They are "voting with their feet." This action of preferring by vast hordes can only be indicative of the truth inherent in a remark attributed to Arundhati Roy: "India does not live in her villages; India dies in her villages." Masses are fleeing the rural utopia of the central planners' romantic imagination. Why?
As Madhi Kishwar once noted, "even rag pickers in Delhi send back money to their villages." A rag picker is an urban entrepreneur. Like all entrepreneurs, he must find hidden value in what has been undervalued by the market. The rag picker is an exceptional entrepreneur who finds hidden value in waste – and this is where his profit lies. But this activity cannot be carried out in a village: there are no mounds of garbage to sift through there."
If you want to read the balance 3600 words, click here to download the document.