The recent increase in construction activity in and around Indore has shown that our governments are always ready to sacrifice the long term benefits for the short term gains.
It is true that the short-term thinkers are rewarded unfairly but the experience of creating cities such as Gurgaon where prime-farming land has been sacrificed for the construction of malls and office spaces has shown that this bargain does not give good returns in the future.
The price of essentials such as fruits, vegetables and property in and around Indore are currently low but moves such as the creation of the super corridor and the growing call center culture will ensure that Indore does not remain an affordable place to live in for very long. Ultimately another city which is currently in equilibrium and has both the cultures of rural and urban living in harmony will be destroyed.
If the aim of these projects is to create jobs then why are the poor farmers being made to give up their land worth crores for peanuts and even out of that the farmers are not getting their full amount. Another more sustainable way of creating jobs would be to promote agriculture. The rising cost of agricultural goods in other areas such as Gurgaon can be compensated by promoting agriculture here and building better storage and transportation facilities to take those products to areas where demand is high but availability is low.
Agriculture as a sector has habitually been an underperformer but its performance in terms of growth has ripple effects on controlling inflation. Promotion of agriculture can also have a positive impact on related demand for other industrial products such as fertilizers, tractors etc . Hence there is an economic upside to promote agriculture.
The point that needs to be highlighted here is that city planners have continuously overlooked the problems created in other areas of India that have suffered from the destruction of prime agricultural land. The damage is natural, climatic, and long term issues like rising temperatures and creation of heat pockets means that the possibility of agricultural production in the future is greatly reduced.
We don’t need more Gurgaons but we do need more Indores, which can balance both. Even if we want to compare the two in terms of revenue generated per square meter of land then we must balance that against the environmental cost of destroying prime farming land and the long term effects of that on inflation. In my humble opinion call centers will not feed our stomachs and there is a need to for agriculture to thrive and grow in order to support our growing population. If that doesn’t happen then the day is not far where an apple costs Rs 100 and a Kilogram of rice a few thousands. Hope that day never arrives.