Special Correspondent

Says the process, if done in a reckless manner, can become prescription for trouble

CHENNAI: Highlighting the need for a debate on issues concerning acquisition of farmland for industrial projects and infrastructure development, The Hindu Editor-in-Chief N. Ram said here on Friday that corporates should consider negotiating directly with the owners.

Although several justifications could be given in support of the State acquiring land by exercising its eminent domain on the side of industry, the process, if done in a reckless manner, could become a prescription for trouble, Mr. Ram told the valedictory of an international conference on business ethics, corporate governance and corporate social responsibility organised by the Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA).

A paradox

Referring to the violent incidents at Nandigram and Singur recently, in protest against land acquisition, Mr. Ram said the crisis in the agriculture sector, particularly its declining share in the national economy, and the justifications cited for the State acquiring the land provided a paradox. In this context, and also in view of the flawed system of compensation, corporates must evaluate the process of direct negotiations with landowners.

On compensation, Mr. Ram underscored the need for corporates exercising corporate social responsibility as the payment, even if it was at the market rate, was never to the satisfaction of the owners.

Noting there had not been enough discussion on the issues, he said both the State and the corporate and industry bodies should take a clear policy decision.

Speaking on the scenario in the news media in the country, he said given that the sector enjoyed good growth unlike in the developed world where readership and viewership were on the decline its obligation to society became much more intense.

There was also a need to formulate guidelines and a professional code for the media.

Chairman of the Tamil Nadu Council of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry M. Rafeeque Ahmed said corporates could not exist without being an integral part of society. Hence, corporate social responsibility was important.

LIBA director P. Christie and Assistant Professor (Business Ethics and CSR) at the Institute John Alexander spoke.

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